Friday, August 26, 2011

Orange and Black and Blue

If what they're saying, that Mike Flanagan, former Oriole pitcher pitcher, coach, color broadcaster and team vice-president committed suicide, that is just a dang shame.

And if the rumor that he was so heartbroken about the poor play of the team since 1997 and blamed himself for it is true, that's even worse, if that's possible.

We'll never know.  

Flanagan, or "Flanny" as everyone called him, was a link to the Oriole glory days of the 60s and 70s, when almost everyone on the team came up through the minor league system and got schooled by hard-nosed baseball guys such as Cal Ripken, Sr.  That meant that for those who made it to the big league team, they all knew how to hit the cutoff man and which base to throw to and how to bunt the ball  - skills sadly lacking among the current motley crew in orange and black, typified by the recently-released Felix "The Cat" Pie, whose defensive ineptitude, staggering out there in left field like the marble in a pinball machine, rivalled his kamikaze-style baserunning and hitting.  

There are nights lately when I truly believe that the Mötley Crüe that features Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee would play as well, if not better, than our local nine.  And, to my shame, there are nights when I just...turn off the game...when we're losing by double digits in the sixth inning.  I have never done this in over 50 years of rooting for Orioles, but yes, even I have my limits.  

I'll remember Flanagan coming up in 1975, and being the Cy Young Award winner on that magical summer team of 1979.  The fact that they weren't a magical autumn team takes nothing away from the Oriole Magic of DeCinces, Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton and the rest.  

And we still remember his sense of humor ("I could never play in New York. The first time I ever came into a game there, I got in the bullpen car and they told me to lock the doors") and the fact that even though the O's traded him to the Blue Jays when they needed a pitcher for the '87 pennant race (and we wound up with the legendary Ozzie Peraza and Jose Mesa in return), he came back and wound up his glorious career as a relief pitcher for the O's.  He was the final Oriole pitcher to pitch at Memorial Stadium, an honor in an event none of us will forget.  And his oldest daughter was the fourth test tube baby born in the United States!

And Flanny became a club executive and TV broadcaster.  So, if people were down on him for the current woeful state of the club, that was wrong.  And I wish he hadn't taken it that way.

We all have demons, awful things lurking within.  By the Grace of God, I have Peggy to talk things over with, and even though I will never achieve the fame, the glory or the riches of Mike Flanagan, he was a guy my age, and as I march on, I look back and wish he could have found a way to keep marching with us.


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