BALTIMORE - Hall of Famer Jim Palmer answered his phone the other night in Minneapolis.
Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter wanted to talk.
Mike Flanagan, Orioles broadcaster, Orioles great, and Showalter’s partner for afternoon coffee every afternoon at 2 o’clock sharp, had taken his own life at his home outside Baltimore.
“Buck is such a caring person,” Palmer said Monday night at Camden Yards before the Yankees played the Baltimore Orioles.
“It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Palmer said, “but as I told Buck, you can’t be responsible for other people’s actions. At least he’s at peace.”
While the likes of GMs — Pat Gillick, Jim Beattie and Syd Thrift — plus managers Johnny Oates, Phil Regan, Davey Johnson, Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli and Sam Perlozzo were hired and fired as they moved on to other cities, other jobs.
Only Flanagan, co-GM with Beattie for six seasons, stayed.
After Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson and Palmer, Flanagan was in the next group of great Orioles, winning a Cy Young award in 1979, a World Series in 1983, he was co-GM for more than five seasons with Beattie, was the pitching coach and a broadcaster.
He was Baltimore.
Flanagan was drafted by the Orioles in seventh round of the 1973 draft. And aside from parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays (1987-1990), he was always an Oriole.
He could remember what the Oriole Way once was.
“Imagine the courage it took to try and turn this team around against the Yankees and their payroll,” Palmer said. “Mike fought the good fight.”
Ken Singleton and Flanagan were Orioles teammates for 10 years.
Five days ago Singleton, a broadcaster for the Yankees YES network, drove home, past Flanagan’s house off York Road where the left-hander’s body was found on a trail leading to a barn on his property.
“It was too painful, too sad to even stop and think,” said Singleton. “I wanted to get home and hug my wife and kids. This really hurts. We’re all getting older. There should be one person we all have that we can to talk in times of trouble.”
Jays fans e-mail or call and ask why? Why on earth did this happen?
Baltimore broadcaster Gary Thorne, was in his third season working with Flanagan, a man he’d known for 20 years.
“If there was an answer to the question — why? — it probably wouldn’t have happened, he would have solved it,” Thorne said.
“We laughed often in that booth upstairs, we laughed hard.”
Yankees scout Bill Livesey told of managing Flanagan in the Cape Cod summer league in 1972. Flanagan had been a lefty/outfielder at University of Massachusetts, but was only pitching on the Cape.
“He’d needle me for the first half of the season for a chance to hit, we play the all-star game in Falmouth, I let him DH,” Livesey says. “He hits two home runs. They played on a football field, the second one split the up rights.”
Showalter told of the press conference when he was named manager in 2010 and Flanagan saying “if you need any help ... ”
So, before every home game, they’d have coffee.
“He was a source of great wisdom understanding the pitching challenges here,” Showalter said. “He was so brilliant at holding runners.”
It wasn’t always that way.
Palmer told of a start in K.C. — “George Brett took him into the fountains, they stole at least six bases on Mike.”
So, the Orioles return home and Flanagan was throwing a bullpen session under the watchful eye of pitching guru George Bamberger when Weaver strolled by.
As Flanagan came to the set position and delivered, Weaver sprinted a few feet and yelled at Flanagan.
“You’re not paying attention, you’re not focussing on the runner — I stole second on you!” Weaver yelled.
Flanagan listened, caught the return throw from the catcher and asked:
“Hey Earl, how did you ever get on base?”
That was Flanagan.
Quick to the plate.
Quick with a one-liner.
And slow to pass from the memories of Oriole and Jays fans.