While watching the Boston Red Sox-Texas Rangers game, I learned that Baltimore Orioles legend Mike Flanagan had been found dead on his property this afternoon. His cause of death is unknown but authorities in Monkton, Maryland were contacted concerning a “suspicious death.” Flanagan would have turned 60 in December.
My very first baseball book was Zander Hollander’s The 1980 Complete Handbook of Baseball. Willie Stargell was on the front cover while Flanagan, a New Hampshire born southpaw, was on the back. Flanagan and the Orioles had of course faced “Pops” Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1979 World Series. In 1979, Flanagan won 23 games and was named the AL Cy Young Award winner while Stargell was named co-NL MVP (along with St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez). Now both men are gone.
Flanagan spent most of his 18-year career with the Orioles and would earn a World Series ring with the team in 1983. After his playing career ended in 1992, Flanagan worked for the Orioles in various capacities. He served on two occasions as the team’s pitching coach, three stints as a color commentator and from 2002 to 2008 was also the team’s co-General Manager first with Jim Beattie and then with Jim Duquette. Since 2010, Flanagan alternated with Jim Palmer as a color commentator for Orioles games alongside Gary Thorne on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). Palmer was overcome with grief when he learned of his former teammate’s sudden death. I am sure Palmer is far from alone in his grief.
UPDATE: According to Gene Sandusky, Sports Director of WBAL-TV, an NBC affiliate, Flanagan’s death was as a result of suicide. Sandusky stated that he had been informed by several sources that Flanagan had been “despondent over what he considered a false perception from a community he loved of his role in the team’s prolonged failure.” The Orioles have not enjoyed a winning season since 1997 and Flanagan had been part of the team’s management for seven of those seasons.
Now local authorities have not yet concluded their investigation. However, if it is the case that this was a suicide then it makes this that much more terrible. It saddens me to think Flanagan thought this was the only way things could be resolved. In September 2008, I wrote this piece about suicide not long after writer David Foster Wallace had taken his own life. It’s lengthy but under the circumstances I think it’s germane to this tragedy.
UPDATE II: It has now been officially confirmed that Flanagan died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound. How absolutely awful.
UPDATE III: Here’s a video from earlier this season of Flanagan talking to several bloggers in the Orioles broadcast booth about the preparation which goes into a telecast. If you watched it you wouldn’t know anything was amiss. Nevertheless, I’m glad it’s there for posterity’s sake.
UPDATE IV: According to the Baltimore Sun, the local authorities in Monkton indicated that Flanagan had been “upset about financial issues.” They learned this from his wife Alex who had been out of town and became concerned when she had not heard from him. This also differs from the assertion of Gene Sandusky who had stated that Flanagan’s actions had been motivated by the “prolonged failure” of the Orioles. Whatever Flanagan’s reasons, it is regrettable that he came to the conclusion that this was the only way to resolve what was troubling him.