“Mike was an Oriole through and through and he will be sorely missed by family, friends and fans. This is a sad day.” ~ Cal Ripken, Jr.
The Baltimore Orioles set up a virtual guestbook for fans to pay tribute to Mike Flanagan who committed suicide Wednesday, August 24. The guestbook, set up Thursday evening, had over 200 comments less than 48 hours later. In their comments, fans expressed their sadness at the passing of the former Orioles’ pitcher. Some fans offered their thoughts and prayers to Flanagan’s wife and daughters. Some discussed their memories of Flanagan’s career and the Orioles’ better days. Still others talked about being second- or third generation Orioles’s fans or sharing their love of the game with the next generation.
Flanagan’s death made national news, but clearly had the greatest impact in Birdland. Naturally, the current team, Flanagan’s former teammates, and his colleagues at MASN were hit hard by the unexpected and inexplicable death of the man who by all accounts always appeared happy and ready to help. But why, as fans, were so many of us impacted as well?
Perhaps 17th century poet, John Donne, explained it best when he stated: “Each man’s death diminishes me /For I am involved in mankind.” In a way, the fans and the team are part of a shared community, one that is weakened by the loss of one its members. In a very real way, terms like “Red Sox Nation,” “Yankee Universe,” and “Birdland” are true representations of communities. The members of these “virtual” communities have a shared history, values, and traditions. We protect our own, and we feel the pain and loss of losing a member. Some of us may never have met Flanagan in person, but from his days on the team and his days as an announcer, we felt like we did. And, like us, Flanagan loved the Orioles – a special bond, indeed.
With the loss of a prominent member of our community we lose a part of ourselves. We think about past times we know we can’t return to; we wonder what happened and why. As a community, Birdland must grieve, share our pain, relive our memories, and protect those left behind. As a member of this community, Mike Flanagan will be missed by everyone who ever saw him play or heard him announce a game. He will always be one of us.
Note: Mike Flanagan played for the Orioles from 1975 to 1987, and again from 1991 to 1992. He was named an All-Star in 1978, and won the American League’s Cy Young Award in 1979. He was with the Orioles when they won the World Series in 1983. As a reliever, he threw the last pitch at our beloved Memorial Stadium. He served as a pitching coach for the O’s in 1995 and 1998 and was the team’s executive vice president of baseball operations from 2006 to 2008. In intervening years, and at the time of his death, “Flanny” was a beloved member of the team’s broadcasting team.