Kurkjian: Mike Flanagan, A Memorable Man

SABR member Tim Kurkjian of ESPN.com offers a tribute to former Baltimore Orioles player, coach, executive and broadcaster Mike Flanagan, who died Wednesday night at age 59:

I have been frequently asked to name my favorite player or the funniest player that I have ever covered, and the answer to both questions has been the same since I first met Mike Flanagan in 1979. He was the wittiest, sharpest, most clever baseball player I’ve ever seen, a guy who — no matter the subject — always provided perspective and context, usually wrapped in a laugh. On Wednesday night, Mike Flanagan died at age 59.

“Flanny,” as everyone called him, had not been his usual personable, hilarious self in recent years. The many losses he took as the Orioles general manager wore on him, and he took them home. Being replaced as GM in 2008 depressed him even more. He returned to broadcasting in 2010, and again became one of the best color commentators in the game, but he still wasn’t the guy I remember turning to after so many games for a line, a laugh or an observation. “I’m getting back to my old self,” he told me last year. But the last time I saw him, less than a week ago, he didn’t look very good. And now he’s gone, and all of Baltimore is weeping that one of the greatest Orioles is gone before age 60.


On Opening Day 1991, when he returned to pitch at Memorial Stadium, Flanagan received three standing ovations. “I got a bigger hand than the secretary of state,” he said, referring to Dick Cheney, who attended the game. “And he had a better spring than I did.”

I covered a game in 1991 in which Orioles DH/first baseman Sam Horn struck out six times consecutively, the first non-pitcher in AL history to do that. After the game, I went to Flanagan. “Three strikeouts is a hat trick,” he said, “four is a sombrero, five is a golden sombrero and from now on, six will be known as a Horn. Seven will be a Horn-A-Plenty.”

When Memorial Stadium closed down in 1991, after the game, all the players went to the positions at which they had played for the Orioles. There were two dozen pitchers on the mound when former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey got behind the plate and put down a sign. Dempsey was terrific defensively, and one of the game’s best throwers, but he wasn’t a particularly good game-caller. “All 25 pitchers shook him off,” said Flanagan.

Read the full article here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/6894031/mlb-cy-young-winner-mike-flanagan-1951-2011

Originally published: August 25, 2011. Last Updated: August 25, 2011.