Friends remember Flanagan's jovial wit
There was Mike Flanagan the ballplayer, coach, executive and broadcaster, titles the Cy Young Award winner held with the Baltimore Orioles in his nearly 30-year run with the organization.
Who Flanagan was as a person — demons and all — was not nearly as easy to decipher as a job description.
“He was driven, but there was a side of him he never really let you into,” former Orioles teammate and fellow pitcher Jim Palmer told FOXSports.com on Friday. “You just didn’t know.”
Flanagan’s body was found outside his suburban Baltimore home Wednesday. He had shot himself in the face. There was no note left at the scene, although Baltimore County police said Flanagan was “upset about financial issues.”
The Orioles were on the road playing the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday when the news spread. Theories soon popped up that the suicide was due to Flanagan, 59, taking personally the Orioles' lack of success — which included two listless season (2006-07) when Flanagan served as the team’s GM. His former battery mate and fellow Orioles broadcaster, Rick Dempsey, shrugged off that notion.
“In no way shape or form did losing have anything to do with the real Mike Flanagan,” said Dempsey, a longtime O's catcher.
At Orioles Park at Camden Yards on Friday night, the team put on a series of tributes to remember Flanagan. A moment of silence was observed before the game, and a video tribute was played at the completion of the first inning, highlights that included the Flanagan throwing the final pitch by an Oriole at Memorial Stadium in 1991.
The Orioles wore black as they faced the New York Yankees, and a circular “Flanny” patch was attached to the right sleeve of each jersey, a tribute that will remain on Baltimore’s jerseys the rest of the season. Flanagan’s number, 46, was featured on the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
“He was a big part of the Orioles organization,” left fielder Nolan Reimold said. “We wanted to pay tribute to him and remember all the good things he accomplished.”
Flanagan’s résumé is long. He won the Cy Young Award in 1979, the same season he helped the O’s to the AL pennant. He also was a cog Baltimore’s 1983 championship team. Flanagan had two stints as pitching coach after he retired in 1992 and had been an analyst for the team’s television broadcasts the past two seasons.
“I was in disbelief,” said Orioles play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne, who received news of Flanagan’s death while in Williamsport, Pa., to call the Little League World Series. “How can that be? My next reaction was, 'What do you do?' I sat down and I guess I had to let it sink in before you can believe it happened.”
His broadcast partners and former teammates tried to remember Flanagan as an easygoing guy with a dry wit. Dempsey said Flanagan was one of the rare individuals who could laugh off the loud, and often harsh, critiques tossed his way by then-manager Earl Weaver.
“He never let Earl bother him,” Dempsey said. “He didn’t take it as hard as most of us. For Palmer and Flanagan, it was water off a duck’s back. They just played along because they knew most of Earl’s ranting and raving was all for show.”
Dempsey said that Flanagan gave no hint, in a chat earlier this week, about his tortured mental state.
“He seemed to be in great spirits,” Dempsey said. “He was his usual jovial self. There was no indication that there were any problems at all.”
Palmer said that Flanagan had not returned several of his calls and had broken a couple of commitments to meet up in Baltimore in recent months, but that “that was nothing new for Mike.” Palmer said he did notice that Flanagan had lost a lot of weight this year.
“I don’t think Mike realized how much he was loved here,” Dempsey said. “Obviously, he didn’t realize it. I think if he did, the outcome would have been different.”