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Cubs 4-inning saves: Scott Sanders, July 8, 1999

Don’t remember this guy? Now you will!

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The Cubs once had a pitcher named Scott Sanderson. A Northbrook native, he pitched for the Cubs from 1984-89 and made postseason appearances for the team in both ‘84 and ‘89. His best years were elsewhere, but he’s generally fondly remembered on the North Side. He passed away in 2019, far too young at 62.

The Cubs also once had a pitcher named Scott Sanders, who you might not have remembered at all until you began reading this article. Sanders had a few decent years for the Padres in the early 1990s, but his career was holding on by a thread by the time the Cubs signed him as a free agent before the 1999 season.

They tried him as a starter — whoops, that didn’t work. Six early-season starts produced a 5.58 ERA and 1.435 WHIP, with eight (!) home runs allowed in just 30⅔ innings.

So it was off to the pen for Sanders. For a while it worked: 20 appearances between May 12 and June 19, 2.50 ERA, although 13 walks in 18 innings. Then, yikes, as the team was falling out of contention he allowed 11 runs in 10 innings over his next eight outings (9.90 ERA).

That leads us in to the game Thursday, July 8 in Pittsburgh. Neither team was very good at this point, floundering around the .500 mark, but the Cubs led 8-2 after five innings thanks in part to a three-run homer by Jose Hernandez.

So Jim Riggleman lifted starter Dan Serafini (right there is another of the 1999 Cubs’ problems) and Sanders entered the game.

He finished up, striking out seven over his four innings, allowing two runs (a two-run homer by Ed Sprague). The Cubs won 9-4. It was Sanders’ second save of the year, and it would turn out to be the last of his MLB career. He left the Cubs as a free agent at the end of 1999, and went on an odyssey through the Cleveland, Angels, Marlins and Athletics systems over the next five years, never returning to the majors. He also pitched one year in Japan, in 2001 for the Nippon Ham Fighters.