Flanagan death stuns baseball

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:45 PM ET

TORONTO - The baseball world has been left reeling by the suicide of former Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan.

The Maryland medical examiner ruled Thursday that Flanagan died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The 59-year-old former Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays pitcher was found dead on his property in Maryland Wednesday, leaving those who knew him stunned and saddened.

"I just wish I had known he'd been struggling," former Orioles second baseman and manager Davey Johnson, now the Washington Nationals manager, told the Washington Post. "I'd sure like to have talked to him. It's just a terrible loss. Anybody who knew Flanny loved him."

Baltimore County police responded to a 911 call Wednesday afternoon and found a body that was later identified as Flanagan on a trail 250-feet from his house in Sparks, Md. He is survived by his wife, Alex, and three daughters.

"We thank you for your support and kind words at this difficult time," the family said in a statement Thursday. "Thank you for respecting our privacy as we grieve. A private memorial will be held at a later date."

Police said Flanagan had been upset about financial issues but did not leave a suicide note. He was home alone when he died.

According to the police report, Flanagan's wife last spoke to her husband around 1 a.m. Wednesday and he sounded upset, although he said he's speak to her later. She didn't hear from him so she asked a neighbour to check on him. The 911 call came when the neighbour couldn't find him.

A similar incident happened June 30, according to police. Alex Flanagan called 911 when she couldn't reach her husband by phone, but when police showed up, Flanagan answered the door and said he was having problems with his phone service.

Former teammate Jim Palmer, who played with Flanagan for 10 years, sobbed when he talked of his former teammate after calling Baltimore's game against the Minnesota Twins on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. The two also split colour commentary duties on MASN's Orioles TV coverage.

"We were a family," Palmer said. "I think about who played for the Orioles in the years we did, we understand how lucky we were. He was one of a kind."

Flanagan, who spent most of his 18-year career with the Orioles but also had a three-and-a-half-year stint with the Blue Jays starting in 1987, was a crafty lefty who went 167-143 with a lifetime earned-run average of 3.90. The left-hander's best year came in 1979 when he went 23-9 and won the AL Cy Young award. Four years later he helped the Orioles win the World Series.

In late August 1987, Flanagan was traded to the Blue Jays and went 3-2 down the stretch. Over the next two seasons as a starter in Toronto, he won 21 games -- Jose Canseco hit a monster upper-deck shot off him at SkyDome in the '89 ALCS -- then was shuffled to the bullpen in 1990. He returned to Baltimore as a reliever for his last two seasons and recorded the final two outs at Memorial Stadium in '91.

After retiring, Flanagan, a member of the team's Hall of Fame, stayed with the Orioles in a number of capacities. All told, he was with the team for more than 30 years.

"In over a quarter century with the organization, Flanny became an integral part of the Orioles family, for his accomplishments both on and off the field," owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. "His loss will be felt deeply and profoundly by all of us with the ballclub and by Orioles fans everywhere who admired him. On behalf of the club, I extend my condolences to his wife, Alex; and daughters Kerry, Kathryn and Kendall."

Flanagan was the Orioles' pitching coach twice, worked on the broadcast team and eventually was named the team's executive vice president of baseball operations, effectively serving as general manager along with Jim Duquette. That ended in 2008 and, two years later, he was hired as a color analyst by MASN.

Mike Flanagan by the numbers

Games started: 404

Complete Games: 101

Innings Pitched: 2,770.0

Wins (total): 167

Wins (Orioles): 141

Wins (Blue Jays): 26

Losses (Orioles): 116

Losses (Blue Jays): 27

Saves: 4

Earned-run Average: 3.90

Strikeouts: 1,491


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