“I just wish I had known he’d been struggling,” Johnson said. “I’d sure like to have talked to him. It’s just a terrible loss. Anybody who knew Flanny loved him.”
Johnson and Flanagan were two of the Orioles who represented what the Oriole Way meant. They never played together. Johnson left the Orioles after the 1972 season, and Flanagan arrived in 1975. But being an Oriole then meant something, and the players under Earl Weaver and Ray Miller felt a bond.
“He just seemed like one of us,” Johnson said. “He was from New England, but he didn’t act like it. He liked living on a farm. He had a nice 10-acre place outside of Baltimore. He knew a lot about pitching. He was a good GM, too. He was just a good friend to everybody.”
Johnson came to know Flanagan well. When Johnson managed the Orioles in the 1996 and 1997, Flanagan served as a team broadcaster. Johnson let Flanagan work with his pitchers. They spoke often, and the talks helped Johnson feel at ease.
“Early on when I was managing in Baltimore, I really enjoyed conversations with him,” Johnson said. “He was a very settling human being. You knew he was listening to you and he sympathized with you. He cheered me up a lot of times by calling me up and just having an interest in me. He’ll be missed.”
Johnson learned about Flanagan’s death late last night, after the Nationals lost. He watched MASN’s broadcast in his office, Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey expressing shock and sadness.
“I was the last one to leave,” Johnson said. “After I saw that, I wanted to go home and didn’t want to watch anymore TV. And I didn’t want to turn it on this morning. I was pretty shaken. I wish that I had a chance to talk to him ahead of time. I’ve lost a lot of people very close to me, and I wish I had chance to cheer him up like he’s done for me in the past.”