- December 16, 1951
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-05-1975 with BAL
- Allstar Selections:
- 1979 CY, 1979 TSN
Michael Kendall Flanagan (December 16, 1951 – August 24, 2011) was an American left-handed pitcher, front office executive, and color commentator. With the exception of four years with the Toronto Blue Jays (1987–1990), he was with the Baltimore Orioles for his entire career in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Flanagan was a starting pitcher for the Orioles from 1975 through 1987. He was named to the American League (AL) All-Star Team once in 1978. The following year, the first of two times he would play on an AL pennant winner, his 23 victories led the circuit and earned him the league's Cy Young Award. He was a member of the Orioles' World Series Championship team in 1983. He returned to Baltimore to close out his playing career as a reliever in 1991 and 1992. During this second tour, he contributed to the most recent no-hitter thrown by the club. He was also the last Orioles pitcher to appear in a major-league contest at Memorial Stadium.
In an 18-season career, Flanagan posted a 167–143 record with 1491 strikeouts and a 3.90 ERA in 2770.0 innings pitched.
He served in three different positions with the Orioles after his retirement as an active player. He was the pitching coach in 1995 and 1998 and the executive vice president of baseball operations from 2006 through 2008. At the time of his death, he was one of the team's broadcasters, a capacity he had previously held three times (1994, 1996–1997, 1999–2002)
Born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, he was one of Ed and Lorraine Flanagan's four children and the younger of their two sons. Under the coaching of his father and grandfather Ed Sr., who both played in the Boston Red Sox organization, he once struck out 18 batters in a six-inning Little League game.
Flanagan graduated from Manchester (NH) Memorial High School, where he was on baseball and basketball teams that each won consecutive New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) Class L titles in 1970 and 1971. His pitching was limited in 1971 due to an arm injury he had sustained while playing American Legion Baseball for the local Henry J. Sweeney Post the previous summer. This factored into him not signing a contract after he was picked by the Houston Astros in the 15th round (346th overall) of the 1971 Major League Baseball Draft.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Flanagan attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he played baseball in 1972 and 1973. He earned first team All-Yankee Conference and first team All-New England honors in 1973, after he compiled a 9-1 record with a 1.52 ERA and 91 strikeouts, to lead the team in all three categories. The nine wins and .900 winning percentage also set school single-season records at the time. Flanagan had a career ERA of 1.19 and a career winning percentage of .923 (12-1), which are both still the best marks in school history. He also played in the outfield while at UMass, hitting .320 with six homers and 29 RBIs in 128 career at-bats.
"I really didn’t know much about Dr. J until I came down on a fast break and pulled up to take a jump shot. Dr. J was nowhere in the area but, out of nowhere, he blocked the shot and nine players were running the other way. First thing I thought? Better work on my slider, because this is a whole different level of play."
Flanagan also played freshman basketball at UMass, where he crossed paths with Julius Erving. He received his degree from the UMass School of Education in 1975, and was inducted into the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.
He was a pitcher and outfielder for the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL) during the summer of 1972. He had a 7–1 record and a 2.18 earned run average (ERA), while batting .286 with seven home runs. He was a member of the CCBL's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 2000.
Professional baseball career
Flanagan was selected again in the 1973 MLB Draft, this time by the Baltimore Orioles in the 7th round (159th overall). When he signed with the Orioles, the ballclub agreed to finance the remainder of his college education. He progressed through the organization, with stops in Miami (1973–1974), Asheville (1974) and Rochester, where he went 13–4 with a 2.50 ERA in 1975.
His experience in the major leagues began with two appearances as a September call-up in 1975. In his MLB debut on September 5, he pitched 1⅔ innings in relief of starter Wayne Garland in a 5–4 victory at home over the New York Yankees in the opener of a twi-night doubleheader. His first decision was a 3–2 loss to the same opponent at Shea Stadium in the nightcap of another twin bill on September 28. He was on the verge of a complete-game shutout until the bottom of the ninth when the first three batters he faced reached base and Dyar Miller allowed all of them to score.
Flanagan's 1976 campaign was split between Rochester and Baltimore. He did not get his first major-league win until a 7–1 complete-game triumph at home over the eventual AL West Champion Kansas City Royals late that year on September 1. He joined the Orioles' starting rotation in 1977, finishing with a 15–10 record."
One of the team's most dependable pitchers for the next nine years, Flanagan went to the All-Star Game in 1978 and won the Cy Young Award in 1979 with a record of 23-9 and an ERA of 3.08. Flanagan suffered two major injuries during his tenure with the Orioles, a knee injury in 1983, and a torn achilles tendon from a pick-up basketball game.
Returning as a free agent to Baltimore for the 1991 season, he pitched effectively that season as a reliever, including sharing a no-hitter with starter Bob Milacki, middle reliever Mark Williamson, and closer Gregg Olson. After a forgettable 1992 season, Flanagan retired from baseball.
Toronto Blue Jays
His time between the two tours with the Orioles was spent with the Toronto Blue Jays, beginning on August 31, 1987 when he was traded for Oswaldo Peraza. José Mesa was sent to Baltimore to complete the deal four days later on September 4. The Blue Jays released Phil Niekro to make room for Flanagan on its roster.
Flanagan's finest performance with the Blue Jays occurred at Tiger Stadium in the penultimate game of the 1987 regular season on October 3. With Toronto in a first-place tie with the Detroit Tigers and having lost its last five contests, he outlasted Jack Morris by pitching eleven innings before departing with the match deadlocked at 2–2. The Blue Jays ended up losing the game 3–2 one inning later and the AL East championship the following afternoon. Morris said after the game, "Flanagan was so great, so competitive, that I considered my job to be survival – somehow keep us tied until he left the game. We weren't going to get to the playoffs beating him, we could only get there surviving him."
Flanagan's only postseason experience with the Blue Jays was a Game 4 start in the 1989 AL Championship Series on October 7. He only lasted 4⅓ innings, giving up five runs and three homers. The only one not hit by Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco's 480-foot (146.30 meters) shot in the third inning, was the first ever to land in the top deck at Skydome.
His final appearance with Toronto was a start that resulted in a 3–1 loss at home to the Tigers on May 4, 1990. He surrendered all three runs in 4⅓ innings. He was released four days later on May 8. His overall record with the Blue Jays was 26–27.
He served two stints each as a pitching coach and broadcaster for the Orioles. Flanagan was the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. In recent years, positions in the Orioles' front office have been referred to by this title that would be known as general manager in other team organizations. However with the appointment of Andy MacPhail as President of Baseball Operations, his responsibilities dwindled. According to Dave Johnson on the August 15, 2009 episode of the Tom Davis Show, Flanagan's contract with the Orioles had ended in 2008 and he was no longer officially with the club.
Flanagan's career as a color commentator on Orioles telecasts began with 20 contests on Home Team Sports (HTS) in 1994. His appointment by the network as the primary game analyst alongside Mel Proctor in early-January 1996 followed the controversial dismissal of John Lowenstein, an Orioles teammate of Flanagan's during their playing days. He also teamed with Michael Reghi for a year before being succeeded by Rick Cerone prior to the 1998 season. He rejoined Reghi in the broadcast booth after replacing Cerone in 1999. He continued in that capacity for four more seasons, during which HTS evolved into Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. He was followed behind the microphone by Buck Martinez in 2003. He joined the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) as the secondary analyst after Martinez became the Blue Jays' lead broadcaster on Rogers Sportsnet in 2010. Both he and Jim Palmer worked with rotating play-by-play announcers Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter.
Sense of humor
Flanagan was noted for his sense of humor, especially when it involved using puns to create nicknames. In his baseball column in the Sunday issues of The Boston Globe during the late-1970s, Peter Gammons ran a regular feature called the Mike Flanagan Nickname of the Week. One example was John "Clams" Castino, which was a play on clams casino. Another was "Mordecai Six Toe" Lezcano, based on Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown and given to Sixto Lezcano. When the Blue Jays allowed Tony Solaita to sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters after the 1979 campaign, he was dubbed "Tony Obsolaita." During the 1980 season, Flanagan called himself "Cy Young," Jim Palmer "Cy Old," Steve Stone "Cy Present" and Scott McGregor "Cy Future." When Storm Davis, whose pitching motion resembled Palmer's, joined the Orioles two years later in 1982, he was "Cy Clone." Flanagan added that pitchers became "Cy-bex" if they were injured and "Cy-onara" when they were no longer effective. Two monikers that stuck were "Full Pack" and "Stan the Man Unusual," both of which were coined for Don Stanhouse. This nickname concept was later popularized by ESPN's Chris Berman, who was inspired by the feature in Gammons' column.
Flanagan's pitch selection included a slow curve, heavy sinker, fastball, and a changeup supposedly taught to him by Scott McGregor in 1979.
Flanagan's oldest daughter Kerry Ellen was the fourth American born through in vitro fertilization and the first not by Caesarean section. She was born at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center on July 9, 1982. The conception had been performed at the Eastern Virginia Medical School.
When Flanagan's wife did not hear from her husband on August 24, 2011, she called a neighbor to check on him. The neighbor went to the home and called 9-1-1 after failing to find him. Police discovered a body on the property but could not immediately determine the identity because the wounds were so severe. The body was later identified as Flanagan, with the cause of death determined to be a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Police said that Flanagan was distressed about financial issues. WBAL-TV reported that Flanagan was still despondent about perceived failures during his tenure in the Orioles' front office
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- Mike Flanagan