Sometime you just don't know what to say or write. this is certainly one of those times. How do you make sense of someone like Mike Flanagan taking his own life?
WBAL's Gerry Sandusky broke the story and then said, "Police did not immediately identify the cause of death, but sources confirmed that Flanagan took his own life "despondent over what he considered a false perception from a community he loved of his role in the team's prolonged failure."
I'm not doubting the reporting or the source, but I'm not sure we can know for sure why Flanagan did what he did. It may have been several things. Unless he left a note or told someone why before he did it, no one will really know. I do know he had some other issues going on so I don't think it was all over the Orioles failures or his role or perception of the baseball community. But, I also don't think we will ever know for sure. It's sad regardless and I'm sure there's about 1,000,000 people who would have liked to have been on that walk with him to convince him otherwise.
The saddest part in these kinds of situation is the nice things people say about you afterwards. If only the person could have heard these things before, maybe they would have had second thoughts. Flanny obviously got to a point where he didn't realize what he meant to so many people. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us do that in our own lives. We forget or don't say I love you, or I care about you, or I appreciate your friendship. It's only after they are gone that it hits you sometimes.
I was lucky enough to have a few dinners over the years with Flanagan. He was always fun to talk to about the past, but the one thing that always came across was how much he loved the Baltimore Orioles organization. He wanted nothing more than to see the Orioles become winners again and I know it pained him to see the Orioles in such disrepair. I think he appreciated me for running Orioles Hangout and I think he knew we shared that common desire to see the Orioles become better.
In the end I hope his life will not be defined by his death, but at the same time, I hope perhaps this ultimate act will somehow, someway encourage the Orioles organization to make some real change. A change that could bring the organization back to the ways that made Flanny fall in love with it in the first place.
I know there's a ballgame going on up in the heavens tonight. Flanny will take the mound to the roar of the crowd. He'll look in for the sign and see Elrod Hendricks smile through his mask before putting down one finger for the heater. Mark Belanger will lean forward on the balls of his feet as Flanagan begins his windup. Cal Ripken Sr. will move to the top of the steps of the dugout to get a better look as Flanagan releases his fastball. As Flanny releases the ball he'll realize it was his heater of his youth, and as Wild Bill Hagy looks on with his feet propped up on his beer cooler in section 34, the ball will find the mitt after it passes the black of the plate.
The umpire will yell, "Strike One," and 54,000 Orioles fans will jump to their feet and applaud. Flanny will look around and with a smile on his face, he'll know he where he was supposed to be.
Rest in Peace Mike Flanagan. We will always remember you.
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Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.