I wanted nothing more than to write about the Baltimore Orioles winning their first series since June 25th. However unfortunately last night’s win in Minnesota and this series win overall are meaningless due to the current circumstances. As most people by now know, former Oriole pitcher and current MASN/Orioles analyst Mike Flanagan (age 59) was found dead on his property near Monkton, MD late yesterday afternoon. Flanagan was an Oriole for 15 of his 18 years in the bigs, and he has the distinction of being the last Oriole to ever pitch in Memorial Stadium in 1991. Words can’t suffice in saying how sorry I am for the Flanagan family, as well as the Orioles and MASN families. The people that knew and loved Mike Flanagan will most certainly feel this loss much moreso than will anyone else. “Flanny would split each season with Jim Palmer as the Orioles’ color analyst, and had previously done so years ago when the Orioles were on the now defunct Home Team Sports. To say the least Mike Flanagan was not only an Oriole legend, however Oriole fans got used to his dry sense of humor and were very much drawn to him over time in the broadcast booth.
News of this horrible tragedy started breaking just as the game was getting underway last night. For those of you follow Twitter as I do during Oriole games, you know that this topic was widely discussed amongst the Orioles’ tweeps. It’s unclear when MASN commentators Jim Hunter and Jim Palmer were made aware of the situation, only that they were told at some point during the game. The two of them gave a virtuoso performance in terms of covering the fact that they knew the news at hand. Anyone that saw O’s Xtra with Amber Theoharis, Rick Dempsey, and Tom Davis after the game will probably never forget it. Dempesey and Palmer were about as emotional as anyone could be; it really shows you the kind of family that the Orioles have given that all of these guys were and still are so closely connected with each other. That was perhaps part of the beauty of sports “back in the day” so to speak in that you moved your family to the city where you played, and in many cases you made your permenant life there. You quickly became like family with your teammates and in essence formed relationships that lasted a lifetime. Jim Hunter also interviewed Orioles manager Buck Showalter on the postgame show; both men had a hard time keeping it together. For what it’s worth, I tip my cap to the entire MASN crew last night for the job they did.
Flanagan was drafted by the Orioles in 1973, and he made his bebut in 1975. He will long be remembered by Oriole fans as one of the greatest pitchers in team history. In his 18 major league seasons, he spent 15 with the O’s. He ranks fifth in games won in team history (141), and third in games started (450). Flanny won the 1979 Cy Young award with a record of 23-9 and a 3.08 ERA. He was traded to the Blue Jays on August 31, 1987; he pitched for Toronto for the remainder of that season, along with 1989-1990. He returned to the Orioles as a free agent in 1991, and is remembered fondly as having the distinction of being the last Oriole pitcher to pitch at Memorial Stadium. I remember that day well (a 7-1 loss to Detroit on the final day of the season). Flanagan was called and told to get warm, and when he came in from the bullpen in the outfield he gingerly walked towards the mound. When asked why he took his sweet time, he said something to the effect of had I gone any faster, I quite simply would have fallen over. A few years later after his playing career ended he served two tours as Oriole pitching coach, his above-mentioned tenure at HTS, and from 2005-2008 he was a front office executive with the team before returning to broadcasting last year. Flanagan is survived by his wife Alex, and his daughters Kerry, Kathryn and Kendall. (And that’s the real tragedy here folks; Alex Flanagan is now without her husband, and his daughters no longer have their father.)
There are various reports as to the cause of death (Flanagan’s body was found on his property), however out of respect for the family I won’t address that until Baltimore County Police release that information. Going back to last night’s MASN broadcast, my heart went out to Rick Dempsey, Jim Palmer, and all those who knew and loved Mike Flanagan. I know that I myself am guilty of not putting sports in the proper context on occasion in that it’s only a game. Even if you’re a player or coach and this is your career, at it’s core it’s still only a game. Mike Flanagan wasn’t just a guy that lived in our televisions, he was a real person. That real person had many friends, and most importantly a family that he’s now left behind. My deepest of sympathies go out to the Flanagan family, and all who were close to Flanny. I think that too often we get so caught up in whatever’s going on in our lives nowadays to stop and take the time to care about others. In Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey, I saw two guys that genuinely cared about their friend Mike last night, and were devestated that they’d never see him again. I would just ask that fans keep the Flanagan family in their prayers. As I said, I wanted to be able to write about the O’s winning their first series since June. So in closing I would just mention that the Orioles’ current #46 (Jeremy Guthrie) pitched a masterful game on the night that #46 Mike Flanagan passed away. Flanagan may be gone, but will never be forgotten. I’m a religious man, although I don’t bring that into this column. So I’ll just say this; may God rest his soul in peace.