Scott Service

This article was written by Len Pasculli

Scott ServicePitcher Scott Service had a long and workmanlike professional career. He appeared in 338 major-league games from his debut on September 5, 1988, until his final game on September 26, 2004. With his minor-league games included, Service’s professional career spanned 905 games over 19 seasons from ages 19 through 37 (1986-2004), including the one game he pitched in the Japan Central League in 1991.

Scott David Service, born in Cincinnati on February 26, 1967, was the youngest child of John and Ruth Service. He had four older sisters. His mother listened to Reds broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall all the time. She told everybody that her boy was going to be a Reds player one day.1

Service played baseball and football (punter and backup quarterback) at Aiken High School and graduated in 1985. He said he was not outstanding in high school. However, he is the only Aiken High School alumnus to play in the major leagues.2 The 6-foot-6 right-hander worked at developing both his body and his fastball in his senior year. He played summer league baseball and pitched for the West All-Stars who defeated the East All-Stars 10-9 on May 27, 1985. Service struck out four batters in two innings, was the winning pitcher, and was voted the West’s Most Valuable Player.3

 Service was scouted by the Expos, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Phillies. At a tryout in August 1985, he impressed Phillies scout Tony Lucadello with his 90-mph fastball. Lucadello signed him on the spot as an undrafted free agent.4

Service honed his craft in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system from 1986 through August 1988, both as a starter and a reliever. He toiled for three Class-A clubs in 1986 (Spartanburg, Utica, and Clearwater). In 1987 he bounced from Clearwater to Double-A Reading (Eastern League). 

Service made nine starts for Reading when the 1988 season began. He made 18 starts for Triple-A Maine (Old Orchard Beach) and led the team in wins (8) and ERA among the starters (3.67). When his manager George Culver beckoned Service to tell him he was going to “The Show,” Service had won six of his last eight games.5

As one might expect from such a long professional career, Service experienced many colorful and memorable baseball moments, starting with his arrival in Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium on September 1, 1988. The first player to meet Service at his locker was Mike Schmidt. It was not long after Service stammered through his greeting that he learned that Schmidt had been asked by Lucadello, who had signed the future Hall of Famer in 1971, to take Service under his wing.6

Service was scheduled to make his major-league debut as the Phillies’ starter in the second game of a Labor Day doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on September 5.7 However, the game on Sunday was rained out and Sunday’s scheduled starter Shane Rawley started the Labor Day nightcap instead.

As it turned out, Service got the ball for the first time in the sixth inning of the opener that day with the Phillies trailing 10-3. The first batter he faced was Shawon Dunston, who singled to left but then was erased in a double play. Service faced the minimum six batters in his two innings, including strikeouts of Ryne Sandberg and Rafael Palmeiro in the seventh. He was the most effective of the six Phillies who pitched in that game, which the Phillies lost 14-3. During his maiden September call-up, Service made five relief appearances, and allowed only one run in 5⅓ innings pitched. 

Still young, Service returned to the minors in 1989 for more seasoning. He spent his age 22 campaign first with Reading and then with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Phillies’ new Triple-A team. At Scranton, he got six saves and three wins, with a 2.16 ERA in 23 relief appearances. In 1990 he made 45 appearances, including nine starts, for Scranton, with five wins, two saves, and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. He began utilizing his big sweeping slider to complement his fastball. Later in his career, probably helping to protract his career in fact, Service also developed a forkball. But it was that slider that paid the bills. And it was that slider that Service’s buddy Bronson Arroyo wanted to learn when they both played for the Nashville Sounds, the Pirates’ Triple-A team, in 2002 (and which Service believed improved the trajectory of Arroyo’s career).8

After spending five years in the Phillies farm system, Service was granted free agency in October 1990 and was signed by the Montreal Expos in November. In 1991 he pitched well for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians: 2.97 ERA, with a 1.005 WHIP. Yet, rather than giving Service a call-up, the Expos sold his contract in July 1991 to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League. He was surprised but excited to go.

In 1981-1993, the Japanese league allowed only two non-native players on the active roster, three in the organization. The Dragons were looking for insurance in case Scott Anderson, who had been released by the Expos and signed by the Dragons eight months before Service was signed, went down with an injury.9 In the 2½ months he was in Japan (July-September 1991), Service played mostly on Chunichi’s taxi squad, made up of players who were not on the active 25-man roster. Anderson stayed healthy and appeared in 54 games (46 starts) over two seasons before catching on with the Florida Marlins organization in 1993. Service, on the other hand, faced five batters in a mere one inning of work for the Dragons. (He allowed one run on three hits.)

Service returned to Indianapolis when the Expos signed him as a free agent after the 1991 season. The Expos told him that with his fastball-slider repertoire, he would be a good reliever. It appears they were right. At Indianapolis he made 13 relief appearances and chalked up a 2-0 record with a stellar 0.74 ERA and 0.863 WHIP. He struck out 25 batters in 24⅓ innings. However, he did not perform nearly as well when he was called up by the Expos (15 hits, 11 earned runs in 7 innings).

Service was released by Montreal on June 8, signed with the Reds the next day, and joined their Triple-A affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. In 39 games (two starts), his ERA was 2.29. He struck out 87 batters in 70⅔ innings. In a Sounds loss to the Buffalo Bisons on August 18, Service struck out all nine batters he faced in three innings of relief. After he struck out the eighth batter, Bison Jeff Richardson popped up into foul territory near the Sounds dugout. Pitching coach Frank Funk yelled to first baseman Russ Morman, “Don’t catch it!” Service looked into the dugout quizzically, and asked Funk, “Why’d you do that?” Funk replied, “Just strike him out.” And Service did. In the next moment, he was rushed by his coaches and teammates, slapping him on the back as if he had just won a playoff game.10 That’s when he learned that his nine consecutive strikeouts set a new American Association record.11

Soon after the trip to Japan, Service married Tonya Hahn, his high-school sweetheart. She enjoyed traveling with him to Japan and to Venezuela (for winter league while Service was with the San Francisco Giants). “All the years were fun,” she said. Throughout his career, he shuttled between the majors and the minors quite a bit. “We were excellent packers,” said Tonya.12 

Looking at it now, Service’s hot and cold career – so customary for a middle reliever – had just enough spice to counteract the ice and to keep him in the majors for 12 more years after 1992. He got his first real taste of the major leagues in 1993. He appeared in five games with the Expos in 1992 and three with the Colorado Rockies in 1993 before he was selected off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. From July 10 through the end of the season, he appeared in 26 big-league games for the Reds.

On July 10, 1993, Service relieved Tim Belcher in the sixth inning with the Reds trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-6. Service pitched three perfect innings while his teammates scored four runs. Rob Dibble pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth, and saved Service’s first major-league win.

On August 5, in a road game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Reds staff ace Jose Rijo was coasting with an 11-1 lead after seven innings. Then came a moment that Service did not see coming.

Manager Davey Johnson had already used three pinch-hitters and one pinch-runner, and another position player, Barry Larkin, was out with a sprained thumb. So, when Rijo’s batting turn came up in the bottom of the seventh, Johnson looked down the row of players in the dugout, at their feet.

“Serv,” he hollered. “You have your spikes on? Grab a bat.” Up to that point, Service had five major-league at-bats — “all forward K’s or backward K’s.” But he strolled to the plate to pinch-hit. “I just stuck out my bat,” Service said, and grounded out to second. “I shoulda never put my spikes on,” he said with a touch of rue.13

Then came the game that put Service in the “one-hit wonder” category. By August 7 he had come to bat in the big leagues six times, twice in 1992 and four up to this point in 1993. Five of those at-bats had produced strikeouts, plus the groundout two days earlier.

In the August 7 game against Orel Hershiser and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Service surprised everyone, including himself. Reds second-year pitcher Tim Pugh got into trouble early against the Dodgers, allowing five hits and two walks. Los Angeles scored three runs in the third, and Pugh was lifted with two outs. Service came in from the bullpen and struck out Cory Snyder to end the rally.

Leading off the top of the fourth against Hershiser, Jeff Branson singled to center. After Hal Morris grounded out, Kevin Mitchell and Chris Sabo both singled, and Reggie Sanders tripled to right field. The score was now tied, 3-3. Joe Oliver worked out a walk. Hershiser intentionally passed Juan Samuel in order to bring Service to the plate. That walk was the only time in Service’s major-league career – 12 years, 17 at-bats – that the opposing pitcher intentionally walked the batter immediately ahead of Service in order to pitch to him. But on this day, the Dodgers strategy failed. Service hit a line drive to left field to score Sanders and give the Reds a 4-3 lead. Service did have 11 hits (out of 93 at-bats) in the minor leagues. However, that RBI single in Dodger Stadium was the only hit he got in the big leagues, and the only time that he hit the ball out of the infield. The Dodgers got a run off Service in the bottom of the fifth and tied the game; however, the Reds eventually won 9-6 on three unearned runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

On September 4 the Reds hosted the Phillies. Cincinnati was leading 6-1 when closer Rob Dibble came on in the ninth and allowed three runs on four walks and two hits while getting only one out. The bases were loaded when Davey Johnson called on Service to put out the fire. Service got Milt Thompson to ground into a force play at second, allowing one of Dibble’s runners to score. But when Kevin Stocker grounded out, the Reds came away with the 6-5 victory, and Service earned his first major-league save.

Although the next stretch of professional service time for Service was certainly stamped by solid stints with major-league clubs, those years were best marked by his run with a minor-league team. From 1991 to 1997, before he was traded to the Kansas City Royals on July 15, 1997, Service pitched in 106 games in the major leagues for the Expos, the Rockies, the Reds, and the Giants. During that same time span, he pitched in 196 games for the Indianapolis Indians. The Indians were the Triple-A affiliate of the Expos when Service played there in 1991 and 1992, and when he played there from 1993 to 1997, they had become an affiliate of the Reds.

The 196 games Service pitched for Indianapolis were the most games he pitched for any major- or minor-league team. He was the Indians’ closer in his last four years with the team, which he helped finish in first place twice (1994 and 1995) and second place in the East Division in 1996 and 1997. In those four years, Service racked up 13, 18, 15, and 15 saves, respectively, to go along with the four he got for the  club in 1992-1993, for a total of 65 saves, making him the career leader in saves for the Indianapolis Indians.

On July 21, 1995, the Reds were in first place but needed help in their rotation. Service and pitchers John Roper and Ricky Pickett, infielder Dave McCarty, and outfielder Deion Sanders were traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Dave Burba and Mark Portugal, and outfielder Darren Lewis. This was noteworthy because the Reds finished in first place in the NL Central that year but Service was not there for the postseason. He was in first place with the Reds in 1994 but that was the year the players went on strike, and there were no playoffs or World Series. Service was also with the Oakland Athletics in 2000 when they went to the American League Division Series, but he was not on the postseason roster. Thus, he came close three times but never pitched in a major-league postseason game.

Service pitched well with the Giants in 1995, achieving a personal-best 3.19 ERA. He had three wins, seven holds, and allowed only 18 hits in 31 innings over 28 relief appearances. Yet, he was released after his one season with the Giants. He went back to the Reds as a free agent and played two more seasons with them. In 1996 he regained the success he had with the Reds back in 1993. In 34 games he struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings (8.7 in 1993; 8.9 over his entire major-league career) and held opponents to 3.94 earned runs per nine innings (3.70 in 1993; 4.99 for his career).

As if getting one hit in a 12-season major-league career was not momentous enough, Service topped it. In 338 appearances, he was the starting pitcher in only one contest. He was a starter in over 100 minor-league appearances. So, what happened? “I just never considered myself a starter in the big leagues,” he said.14

The game Service did start took place on July 22, 1996. He had been called up in early July. Coming out of the All-Star break, the team had already played on 11 consecutive days and was now scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Phillies. Manager Ray Knight gave the ball to Service in the nightcap, his first major-league start after 81 relief appearances. He gave up eight hits and left the game after five innings with his team trailing 3-0. He came away with a no-decision when his teammates scored five runs in the last four innings to win the game, 5-3.

Service has another out-of-the-ordinary story. From time to time, a major-league pitcher will have the same name as a position player. Broadcasters and writers seem to enjoy taking note of those occasions when they face each other in a game. In 1991 a catcher and future major-league manager by the name of Scott Servais (pronounced SER-vis) made his major-league debut with the Houston Astros. Over the next five years, the catcher Servais came to bat against the pitcher Service eight times. True to form, a YouTube video15 and newspaper articles16 chronicled several of those instances. In all, Scott Servais went 2-for-6 (single and double) with two strikeouts, a popup, a fly out, a walk, and a sacrifice when batting against Scott Service.

When two players have similar names, sometimes the press does not get it right. On September 3, 1999, Scott Servais the catcher hit a pinch-hit home run while with the San Francisco Giants. However, the Associated Press wrote: “Scott Service batted for Estes in the ninth and hit his first career pinch-home run.”17 The writer and the editor swung and missed on that one.

By definition, one never knows when luck with all its fickleness will strike. For Service, it was in March 1997. Twice in the same week, at a gas station in Dunedin, Florida, near Plant City Stadium, the Reds’ spring-training site, he purchased five computer-generated lottery tickets for $5. The first time he won $34,500 and the second time he collected $21,900 for a total of $56,400. That two-day haul was equal to about 30 percent of his salary from the Reds that year.18

The Indianapolis chapter of Service’s life story actually ended with a dose of melancholy. He opened the season with Cincinnati in 1997 but was sent down to Indianapolis in April. His mother, who had gotten sick with cancer, said, “Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to come back to Cincinnati.” In July Ruth Service took a turn for the worse. Scott jumped in his Corvette and made the 110-mile trip to Cincinnati in under 50 minutes. Ruth did wait for Scott; however, she died on July 10.19 Five days later, Service was traded to the Kansas City Royals.20

After the trade, Service was assigned to the Triple-A Omaha Royals to be seasoned as a late-inning reliever. He appeared in 16 games without allowing a run, picking up nine saves in the process. When he was promoted to the Royals on August 30, he stuck with the parent club for the remainder of that season plus the next two (1998-1999).

The 2½ years with the Royals were Service’s most productive major-league years. His 175 innings pitched and 23 decisions fall short of the minimums (500 innings or 50 decisions) in its lists of team pitching leaders. However, his 9.36 strikeouts per nine innings as a Royal place him above Ian Kennedy, the team’s current career leader with 8.36 strikeouts per nine innings.21

Service achieved personal bests in 1998 by appearing in 73 games, pitching 82⅔ innings and earning six wins. His 3.48 ERA was second only to the 3.19 he achieved with the Giants. His rate statistics in the three categories that analytics measure pitchers by today were very good: 10.34 strikeouts per nine innings, 3.7 walks per nine innings, and 0.76 home runs per nine innings. He was a late-inning specialist with 18 holds in 1998 and seven in 1999. His four saves in 1998 and eight in 1999 were second best on the team each year to the franchise’s all-time saves leader, Jeff Montgomery. Over a two-week stretch in July 1999, while Montgomery was on the disabled list, Service picked up a win plus five consecutive saves. These two seasons were as close as Service would get to an all-star season.

However, a shakeup was inevitable; the Royals led all of baseball in 1999 with 30 blown saves. After the 1999 campaign, Montgomery retired and Service was released.22 Yet, Service continued to be a sought-after commodity. Between 2000 and 2004 he was signed by the Oakland Athletics (2000), Los Angeles Dodgers (signed but released after spinal bone spur surgery before the 2001 season began), Cincinnati Reds (2001), Pittsburgh Pirates (2002), Arizona Diamondbacks (2003), Toronto Blue Jays (2003), Cincinnati Reds again (2003), and the Arizona Diamondbacks again (2004). That he played in 141 minor-league games and 215 major-league games as a quality late-inning reliever after age 30 is testament both to his perceived value to the organizations that signed him and to his physical conditioning and mental pluckiness.

Service played his last game on September 26, 2004, for the Diamondbacks. He was released on November 3, 2004, but received no calls. It appeared that he had reached the end of his run. He was 37 years old. He suffered with degenerative disks. And he was missing his kids growing up, Kyle (b. 1998) and Krystal (b. 2000). He decided to retire.23

As of 2021 Service lived in Cincinnati. He has worked as a pitching instructor and various other jobs for different companies since retiring from baseball. He is divorced; his daughter Krystal in 2021 was a nursing student at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati and his son Kyle was a pitching prospect in his junior year at Northern Kentucky University. Scott worked with his son on his pitching.

Asked in 2020 what he would like to do next, Service quickly replied: “I would really like to get back into baseball. I’m only 53 and there are a lot of coaches older than that. And a lot of guys I never heard of. I think I have something to offer.”24



 In addition to the sources cited in the notes, the author used,,,,, [Trading Card Data Base], and

The author wishes to acknowledge, with thanks, the contribution of information from Alain Usereau, fellow SABR member, sports broadcaster, and author of The Expos in Their Prime: The Short-Lived Glory of Montreals Team, 1977-1984 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2012).



 1 Information obtained directly from Scott Service for this article (edited by the author for clarity) was provided to the author in phone conversations on October 22 and October 28, 2020, and in several follow-up e-communications (collectively referred to as “Service interview”).


3 Greg Hoard, “Reds Notebook: Oester Returns, But Shoulder Still Aching,” Cincinnati Enquirer, May 28, 1985: D-4. The game was played at Riverfront Stadium prior to the Reds-Cubs game that night.

4 Service interview.

5 Service interview; see also Mark Winegardner, Prophet of the Sandlots (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990), 260-262.

6 Service interview.

7 Chic Riebel, “Padres Fatten Up on Sagging Phils,” Delaware County Sunday Times (Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania), September 4, 1988: 70.

8 Service interview.

9 Service interview.

10 Service interview.

11 Larry Taft, “Service’s Strikeout Record Can’t Save Sounds,” Tennessean (Nashville), August 19, 1992: 1C.

12 Tonya Hahn, telephone interview, October 18, 2020.

13 Service interview.

14 Service interview.

15 YouTube, Service takes on Servais in epic face-off. Retrieved on October 16, 2020. (Reds pitcher Service struck out Cubs catcher Servais on July 7, 1996. In the video, the broadcasters erroneously report that Servais singled off Service the day before. Indeed, on July 6, 1996, Servais had three singles; however, both and indicate that when Servais faced Service in the bottom of the seventh inning, he walked, not singled.)

16 Sprout and Baggot, “Commentary: Montana Can’t Leave Too Fast,” Wisconsin State Journal (Madison), August 3, 1993: 2D. Retrieved on October 16, 2020, from (The article references Astros catcher Servais singling off Expos pitcher Service on May 25, 1992 and Astros catcher Servais popping out off Reds pitcher Service on July 27, 1993.)

17 Associated Press, “Kent, Burks Help Giants Top Bucs,” Altoona (Pennsylvania) Mirror, September 4, 1999: B2.

18 Associated Press, “Lucky Service,” Panama City (Florida) News Herald, March 13, 1997: 6C; Jeff Miller, “Easy Second Income,” South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale). Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from The winning lottery numbers were 9, 10, 15, 17, and 18.

19 Service interview. 

20 Service and pitcher Hector Carrasco were traded to the Kansas City Royals for infielder-outfielder Chris Stynes and outfielder Jon Nunnally. Service was assigned to the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate in Omaha. 

21 Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from

22 Montgomery and Service each had seven blown saves in 1999.

23 Service interview.

24 Service interview.

Full Name

Scott David Service


February 26, 1967 at Cincinnati, OH (USA)

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