Mike Boddicker and Storm Davis got on the phone to Mike Flanagan last week and one of them said, "You gotta get down here quick. This clubhouse is too quiet."
"Yeah," answered Flanagan, who's on crutches, "I suppose (Rich) Dauer does need somebody to run (sprints) with."
Thursday, Flanagan "reported" to camp with the Baltimore Orioles regulars and immediately volunteered for duty. "You can take me fishing," he said. "I make a great anchor."
Asked what he was doing in Florida, Flanagan rose up on his crutches, swung the huge cast on his left leg and said, "I'll be over on the little field working on my onsides kickoff. The Tigers will never expect it."
Flanagan's specialty is "the 6-6 joke . . . it goes over everybody's head. Of course, when Earl (Weaver) was here, we called those 5-10 jokes. They were still over his head."
The Orioles know that they bought talent over the winter. What they're worried about is losing the chemistry that has always defined them.
They know they've added a nine-time all-star center fielder in Fred Lynn and the National League's No. 2 hitter, Lee Lacy, and a reliever, Don Aase, with blow-everybody-away stuff.
What they want to ensure is that the qualities that made them a true team -- qualities that Jim Palmer, Ken Singleton and Al Bumbry had -- aren't absent. The Orioles don't want to become the Yankees.
That's why they've pleaded with Flanagan, whose injury last month may literally prove to be the team's Achilles' heel, to come here, even though he'll be in a cast until June and won't pitch until August, if then.
Flanagan most certainly epitomizes some virtue but, fortunately, he hasn't bothered to figure out what it is. Instead, he just seems to carry a tangy toughness with him, a blend of humor and resiliency that buoys others.
When Flanagan went down with a knee injury in 1983, John Lowenstein looked at the pitcher's knee for a moment, then, in his best sarcastic, hard-guy voice, said, "See ya next year, pal." Flanagan was back in 80 days and was a key in the pennant race, playoffs and World Series of that year.
When Flanagan's Achilles' tendon ruptured in a January charity basketball game, the pitcher's favorite get-well message came from Lowenstein. It was just a cheap, handout photo of Lowenstein and, scribbled on the back were the words, "See ya next year, pal."
"Maybe that means I'll start the most important game of the World Series this year, too," said Flanagan. "Of course, it doesn't seem that way now. I'm just worried about getting back to being a normal human being who can walk upstairs the rest of his life. I get more optimistic all the time because everybody has a story about someone they know who's beaten this.
"Even so, the time passes slow. Jeez, my toes are ugly. The more I see 'em, the more I hate 'em . . .
"What I'd like to know is what's with my left side. My left shoulder atrophied. My left elbow got sore. I tore a muscle in my left forearm. I had to have a brace on my left knee and my left hip and ankle are both arthritic.
"My right side is perfect. It thinks I should have won 20 games about four times and my left side wonders how I ever did it once . . .
"Whatever it is in there (on the left side), seems to be working its way down. I'm hoping it'll leak out my toes."
Flanagan has gradually swallowed his latest blow but, he recalls, "I practically broke down on the phone the morning I called (General Manager) Hank Peters and told him what happened.
"Here they'd gone out and bought all these players and I felt like I'd sabotaged it. I couldn't finish (talking). Hank was great. He said, 'We can't build glass houses around our players all winter. We've had that (basketball) league for 15 years because athletes need to stay in shape. You didn't do anything wrong.' "
Even Flanagan's 3-year-old daughter is on his case. "I was leaving to go to a Maryland basketball game and she said, 'Daddy, don't break the other leg.' "
In a sense, Flanagan thinks he should have known not to play in that game. "All my life, I've had these weird streaks of bad luck . . .
"To show how bad I was going, just before the injury my dad and I went fishing in the town of Mexico, N.Y.," began Flanagan, regaling his teammates. "We drove up there through an ice storm and all the power was out, so we slept all night in our wading boots and three pairs of sweatpants.
"We went out to Samon River and there was only one place where all the fish were being caught, by this tree, and people were shoulder to shoulder there. So, the next morning, we get up at 5 a.m. to get to that tree first. Our lines haven't been in the water 20 minutes and here comes a helicopter with a loudspeaker saying, 'The dam is going to break. This water will rise 10 feet in 20 minutes when it does. Please evacuate the area.'
"Dad didn't want to leave. We're there with the water rising and turning brown. He thought it was all a ploy to get us away from the spot by the tree."
Eddie Murray was the only player missing the Orioles' first full-squad workout today. The first baseman remained home in California, where his 17-year-old sister, Tanya, is hospitalized with a kidney problem.