Baltimore Orioles: In memory of the great Mike Flanagan
Today is a tough day for Baltimore Orioles fans who remember the late Mike Flanagan. It was four years ago today, on August 24, 2011, that we got the news of Flanagan’s untimely death on his property in a wooded area in Baltimore County, MD. That day I vowed that so long as I was covering the Orioles in any capacity, I’d always remember Flanagan on this day.
If you go back to last season I’m sure that this column will be similar to what I wrote at that time. But that’s okay. Honestly I can’t recall something that united the community behind the team, and united the team itself, as much as that one event. Mike Flanagan was an Oriole through and through. That fact can never be disputed.
Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Flangan of course played at a time when players would still move to and live full time in the city where they played. And as I said above, he still lived in the Baltimore area at the time of his death. And that’s why athletes of his era and before are so warmly remembered by fans. He didn’t just play in Baltimore, he was a part of Baltimore. His kids went to school with yours, and when not between the lines he was a member of the same community.
In Flanagan’s case he also spent some time in Toronto after being traded from the Orioles. However he also came back to the Orioles as a free agent in 1991. Although in the twilight of his career, it was then that he gave us my own personal favorite “Mike Flanagan memory.” Flanagan was summoned from the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning of the last game of the season as the Orioles were being blown out by Detroit…
…and as we all know, that was the last game at Memorial Stadium. I’m not sure there was anyone better suited for that noteworthy moment in Orioles history, as Flanagan so brilliantly bridged the gap between the old guard and the new. After so many great years with the O’s and then coming back to play in Baltimore after being traded, he was the perfect guy for that moment.
When later asked why he walked so slowly from the bullpen to the mound that afternoon, Flanagan responded that had he ran or gone any faster he probably would have fallen over. Flanagan would play for the Orioles as well in 1992 in the first season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards before retiring, of course spending many years as a pitching coach, broadcaster, and team executive before his death four years ago. In the storied history of a franchise which at that time (and perhaps still) was so intertwoven with Memorial Stadium, being the last Oriole pitcher to pitch there was quite a moment for Mike Flanagan.
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The night he passed away was during a road trip in Minnesota. And seeing the shock, sorrow, and emotions on the faces of the MASN crew doing the post game show that night (including former teammates and longtime friends Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey) is something that I know I’ll never forget. However as sad as that was, it also pulled back the curtain a bit for fans in terms of how close-knit a family the Orioles truly are. Friendships are forged on the field and continued in the communities around town. We see that across the sports world, however perhaps it’s evident in no place more so than it is in Baltimore.
Mike Flanagan was a special player at a special time for Orioles fans. His Cy Young season, being a part of a World Series championship, etc, were all great times both for Flanagan and the city of Baltimore. However more importantly he was a man with a family who lived among us. He made so many friends such as Palmer and Dempsey, and many others over the years. And not to mention the countless of unknown friends who saw him yearly in the grandstands of Memorial Stadium.
My hope and belief is that the Baltimore community is better off having known Mike Flanagan. He left his mark here both professionally as a baseball player, but also as a citizen and a person who lived here. And in all of those circles, he will never be forgotten…nor will time itself ever dim the glory of his deeds.
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