While I am shocked and saddened by the loss of Oriole great Mike Flanagan, I am too young to understand his full impact on the game of baseball. I got to see the end of his career as a player and always enjoyed his witty commentary during Orioles games. But, in this instance, I wanted to defer to my dad, Andrew Blumberg, a life-long Orioles fan who got the opportunity to meet Flanagan and always considered him a personal hero:
Mike Flanagan was the consummate Baltimore Oriole of the 1970s and early ‘80s. Not flashy or self-aggrandizing, but low-key, prepared, confident, and professional, he also may have been one of the most unassuming Cy Young Award winners ever. He was a key component of two workmanlike squads that made the World Series in 1979 and 1983.
I remember his gritty performances in both tilts. He left briefly for a stint with Toronto toward the end of his career, but came back to the nest for the adieu to Memorial Stadium and the baptism of Camden Yards. It seemed only natural that he should be the last Oriole to throw a pitch on 33rd Street, itself an unadorned brick and concrete bowl where the players supplied the magic.
Years after he had retired, I had the chance to speak to him in person at a local fundraising event. I wanted him to know that he was, to me, a “thinking man’s” color commentator, who delighted with quips, insights, and a dry sense of humor. He seemed genuinely flattered, and thanked me graciously. Now, I’d like to thank him one more time, for being one of the rocks of the Orioles family.
[Image: courtesy of Getty Images]