Like anyone who follows the Orioles, I was saddened to hear of the death of Mike Flanagan last night.
I watched him on the mound in the ’70′s and 80′s and later got to know him, interview him and have a couple of interesting, memorable personal moments with him at Oriole Park and in Ft. Lauderdale at spring training.
I thought long and hard about sharing this story because it’s one of my favorite experiences since I started at WNST in 2002.
I share it in honor of Mike Flanagan.
WNST organized a fan-related rally in September of 2006 – “Free The Birds” – and it effectively ended any “business friendship” we had with the Orioles. To say it didn’t go over well in the Warehouse would be like saying Lincoln’s night at the Ford Theater was “just OK”.
In December of 2006, I contacted an Orioles representative with the thought that we should sit down, have lunch, and talk about how we might start the repair process.
That lunch was held in February of 2007, just a few days before the team’s spring training started in Ft. Lauderdale.
I took the elevator upstairs to the Camden Club and there I was met by Flanagan, Jim Duquette and former Orioles media relations guy Bill Stetka. Just before the meeting started, Greg Bader invited himself to the lunch, so it turned out to be five of us sitting around and talking that day.
I won’t bore you about what we discussed, but I will tell you something about Mike Flanagan that I’ll never forget.
At one point in the meeting, I stressed to the four that reconnecting with Baltimore and the community here was paramount if the team wanted to start drawing fans and winning again. I also stressed that putting the word “Baltimore” back on the road jersey was significant to me and an issue I would continue to press them on. At one point in the meeting, Flanagan said, “Drew, you’re right, we always need to connect with the community here, but the ‘Baltimore on the road jersey subject’ is something you should probably let go of because it’s not going to happen. All you’re doing by beating us about that is creating more tension.”
After the lunch, I stopped in the bathroom. In walked Mike Flanagan. He bent down and checked the stalls to make sure no one was in there. He then said to me, “Drew, you keep up that fight about putting Baltimore on the road jersey because you’re right, we should be doing it. I’m going to do my best to make it happen. Don’t stop pressuring us to do that. You keep the heat on us, OK?”
I was speechless.
Moments before at the lunch table, Flanagan had chastised me for campaigning on the air about putting Baltimore on the road jersey.
He had done that, obviously, to look like he was “part of the team”.
But in the privacy of an empty bathroom at Oriole Park, the real Mike Flanagan addressed me and urged me to continue to press his employer about having Baltimore restored to the road jersey.
That’s how much he cared about the Orioles and Baltimore.
I won’t forget that.