Mike Flanagan, Orioles’ pitcher, executive and broadcaster, dies at 59
Mike Flanagan, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher who won the Cy Young Award in 1979 and later served as the team’s general manager, pitching coach and a TV broadcaster, died Aug. 24 at his home north of Baltimore. He was 59.
His body was found Wednesday afternoon about 250 feet behind his home in the Sparks community of Baltimore County. The Maryland medical examiner ruled Thursday that Mr. Flanagan died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Police said he had been upset about financial matters. He did not leave a note.
Mr. Flanagan, a left-handed pitcher, joined the Orioles in 1975 and was part of an excellent pitching rotation that included Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, Dennis Martinez, Scott McGregor and Steve Stone. His best season by far came in 1979, when his 23 victories and five shutouts paced the league, and he finished with an earned run average of 3.08 to win the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher.
The Orioles, managed by Earl Weaver, won the American League pennant but lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.
Although he never again equaled the heroics of the 1979 season, Mr. Flanagan became a beloved figure to O’s fans in Baltimore and beyond, and he was later elected to the team’s hall of fame. He was the Orioles’ pitching coach in 1995 and 1998 and was a broadcaster in 1996 and 1997 and again from 1999 to 2002.
In 2003, he was named co-general manager of the team with Jim Beattie before becoming executive vice president in 2006. Mr. Flanagan was said to be despondent after his contract was not renewed after the 2008 season, but he returned to the broadcast booth last year. His knowledgeable commentary, expressed in a deep, confident voice, was a regular feature of Orioles’ TV coverage on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network until days before his death.
“Mike was such a unique guy, talented, witty, funny,” Palmer, his former teammate and a fellow broadcaster, told the Baltimore Sun. “You are not ready to lose someone like Mike Flanagan. But on the other side, I feel lucky to be part of the organization and have had him as a friend and a confidant and buddy, and see all facets of him.”
Throughout his career, Mr. Flanagan was known for his ready wit and his penchant for giving colorful nicknames to teammates.
He dubbed eccentric relief pitcher Don Stanhouse “Stan the Man Unusual.” After the Orioles mascot — a man in a bird costume — fell off the roof of the dugout and had to be helped from the field, Mr. Flanagan quipped that he should “take two worms and call me in the morning.”
In 1980, when Mr. Flanagan was the reigning Cy Young winner, his teammate Steve Stone won 25 games and went on to be named the league’s best pitcher. Palmer had already won the Cy Young Award three times.
Punning on the name of the award, Mr. Flanagan called himself “Cy Young,” Palmer “Cy Old,” Stone “Cy Present” and promising youngster Storm Davis “Cy Future.”
In 1983, Mr. Flanagan compiled a 12-3 record for an Orioles team that went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
Injuries hampered his career in the 1980s, and he played parts of four seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to Baltimore in 1991. That October, he became the final Oriole to pitch at the team’s old ballpark, Memorial Stadium, striking out his last two batters.
When Mr. Flanagan retired in 1992 after 18 big-league seasons, 141 of his 167 victories had been with the Orioles.
“Mike Flanagan was never the best Baltimore player, except the year he won the Cy Young Award in 1979,” Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell wrote in 2002, “but he was always emblematic of that best of breeds, the true Oriole.”
Michael Kendall Flanagan was born Dec. 16, 1951, in Manchester, N.H. In high school, he set a New Hampshire state scoring record in basketball.
He played baseball and freshman basketball at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. When he tried out for the varsity basketball team, one of his shots was blocked by a teammate, future superstar Julius “Dr. J” Erving, who raced the other way and dunked the ball.
“I knew then it was time to work on my slider,” Mr. Flanagan often joked, explaining his decision to focus on baseball.
When the first of Mr. Flanagan’s three daughters was born in 1982, she was reportedly the fourth in-vitro baby to be born in the United States and the first not born through Caesarean section. She and two other daughters survive him, as well as his second wife, Alex Flanagan. His first marriage, to Kathy Flanagan, ended in divorce.
Although the Orioles have not had a winning season since 1997, Mr. Flanagan remained a link to the team’s glory days, when they were steady contenders in the American League.
In a 1988 interview with the Toronto Star, Mr. Flanagan spoke of the Orioles’ tough-love approach, in which there was no coddling of temperamental pitchers.
“You learned how to pitch, and you learned a lot about yourself,” he said. “You were not handled with kid gloves, but you were a lot better for it.”