Former Oriole pitcher and MASN analyst Mike Flanagan would have been sixty years old today had he lived. Flanagan was found dead on his Monkton, MD property on August 24th of this year; he died from what was deemed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The O’s were in Minnesota at the time, and Flanagan was not with the team (Jim Palmer was doing commentary that series). Few that watched that night will ever forget the postgame O’s Xtra show on MASN when Amber Theoharis, Rick Dempsey, and Jim Palmer tearfully announced Flanagan’s death to the public (most of whom already knew given that the news had reported the story just as the game was getting underway). My heart went out to all of them, especially Palmer and Dempsey; Flanagan’s former teammates. When Mike Flanagan broke into the big leagues Jim Palmer took him under his wing and showed him the ropes.
I grew up an 80’s kid, and during that time period Mike Flanagan was a mainstay on the Oriole pitching staff. I can remember watching the crafty southpaw work his magic against American League opponents while watching the games at my grandparents’ farm in Rising Sun, MD on summer nights. Flanagan won the 1979 Cy Young award, and over the course of his career amassed a win percentage of .539, and an ERA of 3.90. Flanagan was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays during the 1987 season, however he resigned with the O’s for the 1991-92 seasons before retiring. Perhaps one of Flanagan’s most poignant moments came on the final day of the 1991 season, when he entered the game in the top of the 9th inning against the Tigers. However this wasn’t just any old game or any old season finale; it was the final game at Memorial Stadium. I remember hearing the faithful at the venerable old lady of 33rd St. chanting WE WANT FLANNY! WE WANT FLANNY!, as the 8th inning progressed. When Flanagan emerged from the bullpen to head to the mound, he did so in a very slow walk. When asked about it later, Flannagan said that had he gone any faster he quite simply “would have fallen over.”
After retiring from baseball, Flanagan wore many hats within the Oriole organization. He spent two non-consecutive seasons as the Orioles’ pitching coach, a few years in the front office, and two separate stints as the Orioles’ TV color man. The latter of those duties was my favorite non-playing version of Mike Flanagan. I always thought that he did a great job in the booth due in large part to his dry New England sense of humor. Over the course of the past two seasons I felt that he had great chemistry with Gary Thorne on MASN. Flanagan was always a fan favorite as well, and from what I could see he had a way about him in terms of making himself available to people of all ages at the games both as a player and later on.
None of the above-mentioned aspects of Flanagan’s life are the real Mike Flanagan. What the general public saw was much of what the general public sees of each and every one of us: what we choose to show. Flanagan’s wife and daughters, along with his close friends and family (such as Palmer and Dempsey) knew the real Mike Flanagan. That’s the person that this world and all of those people miss the most. We’ve all lost friends, loved ones, etc. over the course of our lives, and we will all do so again. However on what would have been his 60th birthday, I think it’s important that the people who were closest to Mike Flanagan know that Birdland hasn’t forgotten them.
Two years ago I lost my grandmother, to whom I was very close, on the day before Thanksgiving; I know what it’s like to pass the holidays immediately after losing a loved one. Mike Flanagan’s wife and his three daughters are very much in my thoughts today, and throughout the holiday season. I don’t know them personally, nor did I know their husband/father. However I know that he was important to them, and whatever loss Oriole fans feel/felt at Flanagan’s death is felt tenfold and more by them. May Mike Flanagan rest in peace, and may all who knew and loved him find the peace that they need to go onward.
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