I was watching the Orioles and Minnesota Twins game when I learned of the death of one of my favorite Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan. What l liked about him was that he epitomized the work ethic I was raised to believe in. He always seemed to work hard and play by the rules. That was literally the Oriole way when I was growing up.
Other teams had all the flashy big name high ego players but from the 1966 through 1983 The Orioles were often the top of the heap when it was crunch time. Like the earthy blue collar city I love, where our claim to fame is crab cakes and beer not high society, the Orioles were a team of Chevy Trucks in a world of high performance machines and Mike Flanagan seemed to embody that along with Rick Dempsey.The Orioles made up with team work and impeccable fundamentals for not often being the most talented team on the field.
In what I believe was Flanigans first season he began the year with two wins and nine losses. He finished that year with 15 wins and ten losses. He would ultimately win 167 games and lose 143 and had a career ERA of 3.90. Mile Flanagan had his best season in 1979 when he went 23-9 and won the Cy young Award. He pitched in two World series 1979 and 1983. He also was fittingly the last Oriole pitcher ever to pitch in Memorial Stadium that horseshoe shaped venue that so many of us grew up in.
As a fan my first game with my father was in 1954 the first year the Orioles were in Baltimore.Over the years my father and I shared some of my happiest memories of him watching the Orioles. My father always liked the guys who took nothing for granted and worked hard. His first Oriole favorite was Brooks Robinson. My father would try to teach me life’s lessons from baseball and would often repeat a Brooks Robinson line, Baseball emulates life,” when he had some point he wanted to make.
At the end of his life my father’s favorites were Mike Flanagan and Rick Dempsey. He liked them both because to him they were the symbol of working hard and playing by the rules and they were the proof to him that this simple philosophy enabled the person who lived this way to be a success in life.
The best way to remember those who are gone is to remember them the way you want to. I will always think of my father booing the Yankees and hoping for a three run homer. So good bye Mike thank you for being part of some of the happiest moments of my life spent with my father watching Orioles baseball. When I think of you from now on I will remember you coming in to pitch the 9th inning of the last game at Memorial Stadium and being the last Oriole to pitch there. That is a very special place.