Baltimore Orioles: Remember Mike Flanagan
First off, I hope that Baltimore Oriole fans nationwide had a great Thanksgiving. I find myself wishing that we could somehow combine summertime with Thanksgiving each year so that we could meld together the best parts of Americana: food, football, the beach, and baseball! Thanksgiving is a time when we get together with family, friends, or both to give thanks for what we have. However this year I couldn’t help but think of some members of the Orioles’ family who are without this year, namely the Flanagan family. As we remember, former Oriole pitcher and broadcaster Mike Flanagan was found dead on his property on August 24th of this year.
We’ve all lost loved ones, and thus we all know what it’s like to spend our first holiday season without that person. This hit home for me two years ago when I lost my grandmother the day before Thanksgiving. While that was a blessing in disguise given that she had suffered from dementia for the better part of ten years, it still comes as a shock. Nevertheless, my thoughts and prayers are very much with the Flanagan family this holiday season, as I’m sure that they’re going through some trying moments.
I never knew Mike Flanagan personally, in fact I never met him. However I got to know him by watching the O’s on channel 13 when I would spend my summers at my grandparents’ farm in Rising Sun, MD. Flanny was that crafty southpaw with the moustache. Flanagan’s best year was 1979 (two years before I was born) when he won the AL Cy Young award. However he was always a solid starter in the little time that I was old enough to see him pitch, and his curve ball and slider were fierce. (I always figured that the statistics of Sam “Maidez” Malone from Cheers had to have been based partially on Flanagan!) Flanny went to the Blue Jays for a few years before coming back to the Orioles in 1991 for the final season in Memorial Stadium. Few Oriole fans will ever forget the image of Mike Flanagan making the slow walk from the bullpen to the mound on an October afternoon as he became the final Oriole pitcher to pitch in the venerable old ballpark on 33rd St. When asked later why he took such a slow walk, Flanagan said that had he gone any faster, he “quite simply would have fallen over.” (Flanagan was with the team in 1992 before retiring at the end of the season.)
Flanagan spent three different stints in the Orioles’ broadcast booth as a color analyst, two seasons as the Orioles’ pitching coach, and served as a co-GM from 2006-2008. I always enjoyed watching the games when he was on the broadcast. His sense of humor as a player was well documented, and it spilled over into the booth as well. He brought a certain moxie to the broadcasts, perhaps the effect of the typical New England dry sense of humor. Most recently, I felt that he had great rapport with Gary Thorne while doing the games on MASN. Speaking of which, anyone who saw the O’s Xtra postgame show on MASN on the night of Flanny’s death could see the affect that he had on his peers. Watching the great Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey fight back tears to no avail at the untimely death of their friend is not something that I’ll soon forget. In this sense, Mike Flanagan was not a baseball player, baseball executive, coach, or broadcaster; he was a man. He was a father, husband, and a friend. My heart goes out to his family, and the likes of Jim Palmer, Rick Dempsey, and all else who knew and loved him in his life.
As you might have noticed, I’ve purposely left out the cause of Flanagan’s death up to this point. I felt it was more important to go over the details of his life and times, and to touch on those who cared about him. However the fact that Flanagan took his own life should serve as a warning to all of us. As a society we can seemingly cure diseases, allow the paralyzed to walk, etc. Yet we still know very little about the makeup of the human psyche. If you or anyone you know feels depressed or mellow, GET HELP. This is not to say that Mike Flanagan didn’t get help or that he did anything wrong. However bearing this in mind we should always try to appreciate those around us whenever we have the opprotunity. This can come in the way of just smiling and laughing with our loved ones, or perhaps telling them how happy we are that they’re with us. For all you know, it could save a life.
As I said, I never knew Mike Flanagan personally, but based on the stories and recounts I’ve heard it sounds like he was a wonderful man. I know that he’s survived by three daughters, and again my heart goes out to them this holiday season. My own father was faced with cancer five years ago, and luckily he got the necessary treatment and is in total remission. However I live with the fact that I could have lost him at an untimely hour everyday. As time goes on we’ll move towards spring training and the 2012 season. Yet let us not forget Mike Flanagan as we move forward.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala
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