Frank Scanlan (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)

Frank Scanlan

This article was written by Bill Lamb

Frank Scanlan (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)Tall left-hander Frank Scanlan was a top-flight prospect who reached the 1909 Philadelphia Phillies while still a teenager. Prior to that, he had been an underage pitching standout at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to a talented arm, the Phillies phenom also had impressive ballplayer bloodlines, having three brothers in the professional ranks. A six-game major league audition in which Scanlan posted a sparkling 1.64 ERA then cemented the youngster’s status as a star-in-waiting.

Sadly, the sterling career anticipated for him was not to be. Scanlan reported to the Phillies’ 1910 spring camp with a sore arm and was unable to flash the form of the previous summer. He made Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster but saw no game action before being optioned to the minors. Six weeks of disappointing performance later, Scanlan was out of Organized Baseball entirely, reduced to pitching an occasional game in the semipro Chicago City League. For the next seven seasons, he was in and out of the minors before calling it quits for good in early 1918. Still a young man, he then pursued a variety of occupations before finishing as a public housing inspector. He died in Brooklyn in April 1969, almost 60 years having elapsed since his brief fling in the majors. The story of his life and unfulfilled baseball ambitions follows.

Frank Aloysius Scanlan1 was born on April 28, 1890 in Syracuse, New York, the eighth of ten children2 born to prosperous local merchant Dennis Scanlan (1851-1916) and his wife Bridget (née Ryan, 1858-1919), both Irish Catholic immigrants brought to America as toddlers. Their oldest son John (born 1879) left school after completing the eighth grade and spent most of his working life as a city fireman. But Frank and his three other brothers all attended Syracuse High School and then went to college, as did four of the Scanlan sisters, highly unusual for the time.

Leading the way both academically and athletically was Billy (Doc) Scanlan, nine years older than Frank. Following his high school graduation, Billy matriculated to Manhattan College. Two years later, he transferred to Fordham. He finally graduated with an A.B degree from Syracuse University in June 1902. A talented right-handed pitcher/outfielder, Billy played baseball at all three schools that he attended as an undergraduate. He later earned a degree from the Long Island College of Medicine and established a thriving medical practice in Brooklyn. Likely more important to Frank, his older brother also showed the way on the ball field, becoming a pitching mainstay of the Brooklyn Superbas clubs of the early Deadball Era.

While a student at Syracuse High, Frank played on the school baseball team with his brothers Ray, a catcher and all-around athlete, and Ambrose, a left-handed pitcher like Frank but far less talented. Following graduation from Syracuse High, Ray matriculated to Notre Dame in fall 1905. Although he played some football while in South Bend, Ray’s fortes were basketball and baseball. By January 1907, younger brother Frank had somehow found his way onto campus, as well. How a 16-year-old dropout with a two-years-older brother (Ambrose) still in Syracuse High School managed to enroll in Notre Dame is a mystery.3 But Frank was good-sized (6-feet-1½”, 175 lbs.)4 and a talented left-handed pitcher even as a teenager. And the historical record inarguably places him in South Bend trying out for the Notre Dame baseball team in January 1907.5

Preseason workouts were not far along when calamity stuck the elder Scanlan. Attempting to steal home during a simulated game staged indoors, Ray fractured his leg just above the ankle.6 He would be sidelined for the season. A day after Ray’s injury, “Scanlon, brother of the catcher and candidate for pitcher,” led his side to victory in an intrasquad game.7 Used sparingly in the early going, Frank Scanlan made a splash late in the spring season. On May 23, 1907, he held the University of Illinois to four hits but lost on a ninth-inning squeeze bunt, 1-0.8 Six days later, “‘Dreamy’ Scanlon, the smiling young southpaw of [Notre Dame’s] western championship team,” no-hit small college powerhouse St. Viator, striking out 13.9 Frank finished his first year in South Bend with a three-hit shutout of Beloit,10 bringing the Notre Dame campaign to a close with a gaudy 21-2 (.913) record.

His fractured leg healed, Ray Scanlan returned to the hardwood as starting guard and captain for an outstanding Notre Dame basketball team during the winter of 1907-1908.11 Meanwhile, the Notre Dame baseball team was engaged in indoor preseason workouts. Given his showing of the previous year, Frank’s place on the team was assured, and Ray was counted on as first-string receiver. But also vying for a spot on the varsity pitching staff was newly arrived Ambrose Scanlan.12 Tabbed to start an intrasquad game against the ND second team, “pitcher Ambrose Scanlon was easy pickings” for the scrubs, who trimmed the regulars, 12-4.13 Ambrose saw little, if any, collegiate action after that unimpressive outing.

Behind the pitching of Frank Scanlan and future Detroit Tigers mainstay Jean Dubuc, plus the batting of major leaguers-to-be George Cutshaw and Bert Daniels, Notre Dame again dominated the opposition, posting a dazzling 20-1 (.952) record in 1908. But after the season, a squawk was made about the eligibility of Dubuc and batterymate Ray Scanlan, accused of playing in the semipro Chicago City League under assumed names.14 A cursory inquiry subsequently cleared the two, but this would not prove the only time that a Scanlan brother was suspected of playing pro ball under an alias. In fact, Frank spent that summer pitching for the Allentown (Pennsylvania) club in the independent minor Atlantic League under the name “Strauss.”15

The Scanlan brothers returned to South Bend, but the baseball team’s 13-5 (.722) record in spring 1909 was something of a disappointment. Frank was dominant when available but plagued by back problems, appearing in only eight games. Still, he led the squad in batting average (.421), besting brother Ray (.333), who placed second.16 Ambrose, meanwhile, pitched some intrasquad games but saw no varsity action.

In June 1909, Ray Scanlan graduated from Notre Dame with a B.S. degree in chemistry and left campus. Frank (whose classroom attendance may have been illusory) and Ambrose also abandoned South Bend. That summer, all three brothers took a stab at playing professional baseball, with varying degrees of success. Under the name “Wilson,” Ray signed with the Providence Clamdiggers of the Class A Eastern League but saw little action. In nine games, he batted a meager (3-for-24) .125. Ambrose received even shorter shrift, released after flunking an audition with the Troy Trojans of the Class B New York State League.17 Frank, however, found immediate success.

Reassuming his “Strauss” alias, Frank rejoined the Allentown club in mid-June. He opened his campaign by setting down an Easton, Pennsylvania, nine on four hits, winning 6-1.18 Thereafter, more strong work attracted major league attention. In mid-August, an Allentown newspaper announced that “Strauss, whose real name is Scanlon, is a brother of Doc Scanlon, the Brooklyn National League pitcher,” and that he had been signed by the Philadelphia Phillies.19

On August 8, 1909, 19-year-old Frank Scanlan made his major league debut, coming on in relief of Phillies starter Earl Moore to pitch the bottom of the eighth with Philadelphia trailing the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-0. The rookie promptly struck out the side. Scanlan did not fare as well in his next relief outing ten days later, being touched for two stolen base-aided runs by New York during a 14-1 Giants rout.20 Three scoreless relief appearances followed, with retroactive credit for a save in Philadelphia’s 13-3 romp over St. Louis on August 27.

During the first game of a September 1 doubleheader, Scanlan was brought in to relieve starter Tully Sparks in the midst of a five-run Cincinnati Reds uprising in the third inning. He allowed an unearned run that frame and then threw two scoreless innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. Although the Phillies had 34 games remaining on the schedule, manager Billy Murray never called on Scanlan again. Still, the youngster had made a respectable showing during his tryout. In six appearances overall, he registered no decisions but posted an excellent 1.64 ERA in 11 innings pitched. Over that span, he allowed eight hits, striking out five and walking a like number. Although Scanlan’s stats were not overwhelming, club management was sufficiently impressed. Before the year was out, the Phillies re-signed him for the 1910 season.21

Over the winter, it dawned upon someone in the sporting press that there were four Scanlan brothers active in Organized Baseball. Soon, a wire service article published nationwide compared them to the celebrated Delahanty brothers.22 But the sun was setting on these pretenders to top baseball family honors. Doc, the only established major leaguer among the Scanlans, was on the path to abandoning baseball for the practice of medicine. The 1911 season would be his final one in the professional ranks. By then, Ambrose Scanlan had washed out in a tryout with the Haverhill (Massachusetts) Hustlers of the Class B New England League and gone home to Syracuse. There, he would soon embark on the career in insurance that engaged him for the remainder of his life. Ray Scanlan’s ballplaying days had also reached the terminal stage. He quit the game after the 1911 season to take a position as superintendent of a gas works plant in Indiana.

Frank Scanlan had a longer baseball road to travel. As noted earlier, he arrived at the 1910 Phillies spring camp with a sore arm, and his fortunes rapidly declined from there. He made the club’s Opening Day roster but saw no early-season action. In late May, Scanlan was optioned to the Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Barons of the New York State League,23 but his salary wing did not respond there either. In early July, Frank was unconditionally released at his own request.24 He finished the summer pitching the odd game in the semipro Chicago City League.25

Scanlan’s downward spiral continued the following year. His 1911 campaign included brief stops in the Class A Southern Association (Atlanta) and Class B South Atlantic League (Macon, Georgia) before he settled in with the Anderson (South Carolina) Electricians of the Class D Carolina League. The following year again found him outside Organized Baseball, working and pitching semipro ball in Escanaba, Michigan, where he met his future wife, high school teacher Mae McGuire.

Scanlan returned to the minors in 1913, signed by the Appleton (Wisconsin) Papermakers of the Class C Wisconsin-Illinois League.26 He spent most of the season, however, with a league rival, the Green Bay Bays. There, he demonstrated the recovery of his arm by throwing 259 innings. But with only an 11-13 (.458) record for a winning (69-57, .548) Green Bay club, he was no longer a major league prospect.

In 1914, he returned to Green Bay, where a 15-7 record earned him a late-season promotion to the Louisville Colonels of the Class AA American Association. The following year, Scanlan was demoted to Class B ball, sold by Louisville early in the season to the Davenport (Iowa) Blue Sox of the Three-I League.27 There, he contributed to a near pennant-winning Blue Sox campaign, going 16-4 (.800) and leading circuit hurlers in winning percentage.28 After the season, Frank and Mae McGuire tied the knot, but their 25-year marriage was childless.

In 1916, Scanlan toiled for another Three-I League club, the Rock Island (Illinois) Islanders, going 13-15 (.464) for a sixth-place (57-76, .429) finisher.29 The youngest Scanlan brother completed his pro career in 1917, going 10-8 with a 1.78 ERA for the Dubuque (Iowa) Dubs-Charles City (Iowa) Tractorites of the Class D Central Association.30 With America now fully immersed in World War I hostilities, minor league positions became scarce in 1918, prompting him to give up the game.

After baseball, Scanlan and his wife remained in Escanaba, where he opened a cigar stand. Later, he became proprietor of a local billiards parlor. Thereafter, the Scanlans moved to Brooklyn, where Frank found employment as a salesman of industrial products. In October 1940, Mae McGuire Scanlan passed away. Four years later, Frank remarried, taking divorcée Ann Catillaz Foster as his second wife. Scanlan spent the final years of his working life as a public housing inspector in Brooklyn.

Late in life, Scanlan suffered from heart and lung disease. But a fall at home that fractured his left hip was the precursor of his passing. Taken to nearby Methodist Hospital, he died there of a pulmonary embolism on April 9, 1969.31 The last survivor of the ballplaying brothers, Frank Aloysius Scanlan was 78. Following a Requiem Mass said at St. Augustine Church, Brooklyn, his remains were interred in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, Queens.32 Survivors included second wife Ann, stepson John P. Foster, and his sister Imelda Scanlan McCann.

In a player questionnaire completed a decade before his death, our subject responded to the question: If you had it all to do over, would you play professional baseball? His answer: “With great pleasure.”33 Frank Scanlan then wrote in the margin: “Ambrose, Ray, Doc, Frank – First family to follow the Delahanty brothers [four brothers].” An apt summation for the ballplaying Scanlan quartet.

 

Acknowledgments

This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Warren Corbett and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.

 

Sources

Sources for the biographical info imparted above include the Frank Scanlan file with two completed questionnaires maintained by the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York; US and New York Census reports and other government records accessed via Ancestry.com; and various of the newspaper articles cited in the endnotes. Unless otherwise noted, stats have been taken from Baseball-Reference.

 

Notes

1 Although baseball reference works and governmental records give our subject’s first name as Frank, he was doubtless christened Francis, there being no Saint Frank. But like most Irish-American males saddled with that gender-ambiguous name, he called himself Frank throughout his life.

2 The other Scanlan children were Minna (Mary Ann, born 1878), John (1879), William (1881), Julia (1882), Gertrude (1883), Raymond (1886), Ambrose (1888), Anna (1892), and Imelda (1901).

3 The suspicion that Frank Scanlan was born several years before his recognized April 18, 1890 birth date is refuted by contemporaneously created government records, particularly the 1900 US Census.

4 According to the player questionnaire completed by Frank Scanlan himself. Baseball reference works list him as slightly shorter.

5 See “Schedule 25 Games,” South Bend (Indiana) Tribune, January 26, 1907: 3.

6 As reported in “Raymond Scanlon’s Leg Fractured,” Boston Journal, February 8, 1907: 9; “Scanlon’s Brother Hurt,” Brooklyn Citizen, 8, 1907: 5. In keeping with reportage on older brother Bill/Doc, newspapers almost invariably misspelled the Scanlan surname when dealing with the other brothers.

7 Per “Illness in Squads,” South Bend Tribune, February 9, 1907: 3.

8 See “Illini Squeeze Win,” South Bend Tribune, May 24, 1907: 3.

9 “No Hit Off Scanlon,” South Bend Tribune, May 29, 1907: 3.

10 See “Beloit Shut Out,” South Bend Tribune, June 1, 1907: 3.

11 See “Notre Dame Five Made Up of All-Round Athletes, Detroit Times, February 1, 1908: 2.

12 Per “To Select Players,” South Bend Tribune, April 8, 1908: 12. The three Scanlan brothers had played together on the Syracuse High nine of 1905, the school newsletter describing Frank and Ambrose as “two of the best twirlers that we have had in many years while Ray Scanlan was a great mainstay to the team behind the bat.” The S.H.S Recorder, September 28, 1906.

13 “Second Team Beats Varsity,” South Bend Tribune, April 14, 1908: 9.

14 As reported in “Notre Dame Bd. to Probe Semi-Pro Story,” Lake County (Indiana) Times, June 10, 1908: 4; “Probe College Ringers,” Rockford (Illinois) Republic, June 10, 1908: 9. See also, Robert A. Kaspar, “Denies Charges Against Players,” South Bend Tribune, February 18, 1909: 10.

15 Per game accounts/box scores published in Allentown newspapers during the summers of 1908 and 1909, with the identity of Frank Scanlan confirmed as Strauss in “Allentown Player with Phillies,” (Allentown, Pennsylvania) Morning Call, August 18, 1909: 4.

16 Per 1909 varsity stats published in “Season a Success at Notre Dame,” South Bend Tribune, June 2, 1909: 12.

17 See “Doc Scanlon Now Has 3 Brothers Playing League Baseball,” Brooklyn Citizen, February 2, 1910: 4.

18 See “Base Ball,” Allentown (Pennsylvania) Leader, June 24, 1909: 1, which observed that “Strauss … was in fine form” in his first local outing of the season.

19 Per “Allentown Player with Phillies,” Morning Call, August 18, 1909: 4.

20 The Giants stole eight bases total against Phillies pitchers and second-string catcher Fred Jacklitsch.

21 As reported in “Baseball Notes,” Lake County Times, November 27, 1909: 4; “Sporting Notes,” Grand Forks (North Dakota) Evening Times, December 2, 1909: 9; and elsewhere.

22 See e.g., “Scanlan vs. Delehanty,” New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 21, 1910: 12; “Scanlan Family Rivals the Dels,” Fort Worth Record, February 20, 1912: 12; “Famous Scanlon Family,” Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot, February 18, 1912: 10.

23 See “Scanlon Given to Wilkes-Barre,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 1910: 10; “Contracts and Releases,” Richmond Dispatch, May 25, 1910: 5.

24 Per “Scanlon Let Out,” Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Times, July 2, 1910: 9; “Phillies Get Option on Humphries; Scanlon Asked to Be Let Out,” Scranton (Pennsylvania) Times, July 1, 1910: 15.

25 As noted in the Chicago Daily News, July 15, 1910: 2.

26 As reported in “Baseball Notes,” Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent, February 19, 1913: 8.

27 See “Scanlon Released,” Louisville Courier-Journal, May 23, 1915: 39; “Pitcher Scanlon Draws Release,” Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, May 22, 1915: 19.

28 Per The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds (Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 3d ed. 2007), 258. Davenport (76-52, .594) finished the season an eyelash behind the Moline (Illinois) Plowboys (75-51, .595) in final l Triple-I League standings.

29 Per Three-I League stats published in the Rock Island (Illinois) Argus, September 23, 1916: 10, and Moline (Illinois) Dispatch, September 23, 1916: 9.

30 Per 1917 Central Association stats published in the 1918 Spalding Official Baseball Guide.

31 As memorialized in the death certificate and New York City death record contained in the Frank Scanlan file at the Giamatti Research Center.

32 Per the Frank Scanlan death notice published in the New York Daily News, April 11, 1969: 76.

33 1960 Frank Scanlan player questionnaire on file at the GRC.

Full Name

Frank Aloysius Scanlan

Born

April 28, 1890 at Syracuse, NY (USA)

Died

April 9, 1969 at Brooklyn, NY (USA)

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