Mike Flanagan, 59; Orioles pitcher won Cy Young

Mike Flanagan followed through on a pitch to the Pirates in the 1979 World Series opener. Pittsburgh won in seven games. Mike Flanagan followed through on a pitch to the Pirates in the 1979 World Series opener. Pittsburgh won in seven games. (Ray Stubblebine/Associated Press)
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post / August 26, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Mike Flanagan, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher who won the Cy Young Award in 1979 and later served as the team’s general manager, pitching coach, and a TV broadcaster, died Wednesday at his home north of Baltimore at 59.

His body was found Wednesday afternoon about 250 feet behind his home in the Sparks community of Baltimore County. The Maryland medical examiner ruled yesterday that Mr. Flanagan died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Police authorities said he had been upset about financial matters. He did not leave a note.

Mr. Flanagan, a left-handed pitcher, joined the Orioles in 1975 and was part of an excellent pitching rotation that included Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, Dennis Martinez, Scott McGregor, and Steve Stone. His best season by far came in 1979, when his 23 victories and five shutouts paced the league, and he finished with an earned run average of 3.08 to win the Cy Young Award as the league’s best pitcher.

The Orioles, managed by Earl Weaver, won the American League pennant but lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games.

Although he never equaled the heroics of 1979 again, Mr. Flanagan was later elected to the team’s hall of fame. He was the Orioles’ pitching coach in 1995 and 1998 and was a broadcaster in 1996 and 1997 and again from 1999 to 2002.

In 2003, he was named co-general manager of the team with Jim Beattie before becoming executive vice president in 2006. Mr. Flanagan was said to be despondent after his contract was not renewed after the 2008 season, but he returned to the broadcast booth last year. His knowledgeable commentary, expressed in a deep, confident voice, was a regular feature of Orioles’ TV coverage on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network until days before his death.

“Mike was such a unique guy: talented, witty, funny,’’ Palmer, his former teammate and a fellow broadcaster, told the Baltimore Sun. “You are not ready to lose someone like Mike Flanagan. But on the other side, I feel lucky to be part of the organization and have had him as a friend and a confidant and buddy, and see all facets of him.’’

Mr. Flanagan was known for his ready wit and his penchant for giving colorful nicknames to teammates. He dubbed eccentric reliever Don Stanhouse “Stan the Man Unusual.’’ After the Orioles mascot - a man in a bird costume - fell off the dugout roof and had to be helped from the field, Mr. Flanagan quipped that he should “take two worms and call me in the morning.’’

In 1980, when Mr. Flanagan was the reigning Cy Young winner, his teammate Steve Stone won 25 games and went on to be named the league’s best pitcher. Palmer had already won the Cy Young Award three times.

Punning on the award, Flanagan called himself “Cy Young,’’ Palmer “Cy Old,’’ Stone “Cy Present’’ and promising youngster Storm Davis “Cy Future.’’

In 1983, Flanagan compiled a 12-3 record for an Orioles team that defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

Injuries hampered his career in the 1980s, and he played parts of four seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to Baltimore in 1991. That October, he became the final Oriole to pitch at the team’s old ball park, Memorial Stadium, striking out his last two batters.

Mr. Flanagan retired in 1992 after 18 big-league seasons with 167 victories. .

Michael Kendall Flanagan was born in Manchester, N.H. In high school, he set a state scoring record in basketball.

He played baseball and freshman basketball at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When he tried out for the varsity basketball team, one of his shots was blocked by future superstar Julius “Dr. J’’ Erving, who raced the other way and dunked the ball.

“I knew then it was time to work on my slider,’’ Mr. Flanagan often joked, explaining his decision to focus on baseball.

When the first of Mr. Flanagan’s three daughters was born in 1982, she was reportedly the fourth in-vitro baby to be born in the United States and the first not born through Caesarean section. He leaves her and two other daughters, as well as his wife, Alex Flanagan. His first marriage, to Kathy Flanagan, ended in divorce.