Mike Flanagan career highlights

Recently, the world heard the sad and shocking news that former pitcher Mike Flanagan died at the age of 59, an apparent suicide.

The main tragedy is the loss of the person. Others can speak of that loss far better than I. What I can do is a retrospective of his playing career, looking up some highlights for the late, lamented hurler.

The list of career highlights includes several types of games. There are the most important games he appeared in, some of the greatest games he saw, his personal highlights, some lowlights, and some of the stranger and more unusual things Flanagan was on hand for.

Here they are divided up by what teams he pitched for (Baltimore for a long time, then Toronto, then back to Baltimore).

Orioles years (first time with the team)

Sept. 5, 1975: Flanagan makes his major league debut. He pitches 1.2 IP while allowing four hits and a run to the Yankees. TThe first batter he ever faces, Rick Bladt, flies out.

April 11, 1976: Flanagan has the longest relief outing of his career: 6.1 IP. He fans six and allows no runs, but Baltimore loses 6-2 to the Red Sox.

Sept. 18, 1977: It’s Brooks Robinson Night in Baltimore, on behalf of the legendary third baseman who played his last game five weeks earlier. Flanagan gets the start but has a bad game, as the Red Sox triumph 10-4. Baltimore’s only moment of glory came when Doug DeCinces, who replaced Robinson at third, belts a three-run homer to give the Birds an early lead.

Sept. 27, 1977: Flanagan fans 13 batters in one game, a personal record, while beating the Tigers 6-1. He’ll tie this mark with a 13-K performance against the Red Sox next year on June 30.

April 7, 1978: On a staff featuring Jim Palmer, Scott McGregor, and Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan gets Earl Weaver’s nod for Opening Day starter. The Brewers cream him, winning 11-3.

May 23, 1978: Flanagan posts a Game Score of 90, his best ever in a nine-inning game. His line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, and 9 K as the Orioles top the Tigers, 2-0. Rusty Staub singles in the first and Ron LeFlore does likewise in the ninth for Detroit.

June 26, 1978: When you don’t have it, you don’t have it. Against the lowly Blue Jays, Flanagan allows six runs while only getting three outs. The Baltimore bullpen is even worse, allowing Toronto to cruise to a 24-10 demolition. It’s still the most runs Toronto has ever scored in a game.

July 11, 1978: It’s the only All-Star Game Flanagan ever gets selected for. Damn shame he never gets in the game. Back then, they still played to win rather than get everyone involved, so Flanagan just gets to watch the NL top the AL, 7-3. Incredibly, even though he will win the Cy Young Award in 1979, Flanagan won’t play in that year’s All-Star Game.

Sept. 26, 1978: So close. Against the Indians, Flanagan retires 26 batters without allowing a hit. Just one out away from a no-hitter, DH Gary Alexander launched a home run off him. Then Ted Cox singles. Then Duane Kuiper does likewise. With the tying run on base, Earl Weaver sends Flanagan to the showers, but he gets the win a few minutes later.

Sept. 30, 1978: Flanagan enters this game with a record of 19-14 on the year. Alas, he falls short of his hoped-for 20th win, as the Tigers top Baltimore 5-4. Flanagan tosses a complete game shutout in the loss.

Aug. 12, 1979: Even though it’s the greatest game of his life, Flanagan still gets upstaged. He tosses a complete game, 12-inning win, the longest start of his career, allowing only five hits, one walk, and an earned run while fanning 12. His Game Score of 99 easily tops any other start of his career.

However, the big news is how the game ends. Young Eddie Murray wins it with a rare walk-off steal of home in the bottom of the 12th.

Sept. 3, 1979: Flanagan achieves the milestone that last year eluded him, his 20th win. He tosses a complete-game victory over the Jays for a 5-1 victory. He ends the year with a 23-9 record.

Sept. 13, 1979: Flanagan wins his eighth straight start, the longest winning streak he ever has. His line in that time: 8-0, 8 GS, 5 CG, 71 IP, 56 H, 21 R, 16 ER, 12 BB, 53 K, and a 2.03 ERA.

Oct. 4, 1979: ALCS Game Two: Flanagan makes his postseason debut, and it’s a doozy of a game. An early offensive barrage by Baltimore gives him an easy 9-1 advantage. Turns out they needed that lead as the Angels rally against Flanagan and reliever Don Stanhouse. They cut the score to 9-8 and load the bases in the ninth but can’t get that last run. Flanagan becomes the winning pitcher.

Oct. 10, 1979: World Series Game One: Flanagan begins the World Series with a complete-game victory, as Baltimore tops Pittsburgh, 5-4. Flanagan’s line: 9 IP, 11 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 7 K. Despite all the base runners, Flanagan gets the outs when he needs them.

Oct. 14, 1979: World Series Game Five: Up three games to one, Baltimore needs one more win to become world champions. For a while, it looks like Flanagan will deliver it for them, as Baltimore leads 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. But Flanagan allows two runs that inning, and the bullpen allows five more runs, as Pittsburgh begins its comeback in the 1979 World Series.

Oct. 17, 1979: World Series Game Seven: It’s the winner-take-all game. The Pirates lead 2-1 entering the ninth when the Pirates get a man on third with one out against Tim Stoddard (who just entered the game this inning).

Earl Weaver looks for someone to stop the threat. First he brings in Flanagan, who promptly allows an RBI single to make it 3-1. Then Don Stanhouse enters—and promptly allows a single. So much for him. Enter Tippy Martinez, who hits a batter. The bases are loaded with three batters who faced three pitchers, all of whom only faced that one batter.

Weaver goes to one final pitcher, Dennis Martinez, whose first pitch hits a batter, bringing in another run. Then comes a double play to end the inning, but Flanagan is one of five pitchers to see action in the frame.

Sept. 8, 1980: After 1,098.1 IP, Mike Flanagan walks in a run for the first time in his career. The lucky batter is Al Cowens. Flanagan will only do this two more times.

Sept. 24, 1982: According to Game Score, it’s the worst start of Flanagan’s career. His line: 3 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, and 1 K for a Game Score of 12. Making it even worse, it’s against the Milwaukee Brewers, who the Orioles are trying to catch in the AL East. Milwaukee easily wins this one, 15-6, and go on to win the division by one game over Baltimore.

Oct. 3, 1982: In the last day of the regular season, the Orioles and Brewers face off tied for first place in the AL East. This is it, all the marbles are on the line. Added bonus: Both staring pitchers are Hall of Famers, Baltimore’s Jim Palmer vs. Milwaukee’s Don Sutton. Unfortunately for the Birds, Palmer doesn’t have it. By the time Flanagan enters the game, Milwaukee leads 6-2 in the ninth inning. He also doesn’t have anything, and the Orioles lose, 10-2.

May 11, 1983: For the only time in his career, Rick Dempsey win a game 1-0 while hurling a complete-game shutout. He surrenders seven hits to the losing Mariners and only fans one, but no one scores. The losing pitcher, also tossing a complete game, is Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

Oct. 7, 1983: ALCS Game Three. With the series tied one game apiece, the Orioles roll to an 11-1 win over the White Sox. Flanagan allows one run in five innings for his last postseason win.

Oct. 14, 1983: World Series Game Three. In his last World Series game, Flanagan goes only four innings before getting pulled for a pinch hitter, but the Orioles win, 3-2.

Aug. 31, 1984: After nearly a decade in baseball, Flanagan finally allows a grand slam. Seattle’s Jim Presley hits it off him. Flanagan will allow two more slams in his career.

April 7, 1986: For a second time Flanagan gets an Opening Day start, and for a second time he’s terrible. He lasts two innings as the Indians beat the Orioles, 6-4. There will be no third Opening Day start in his career.

April 15, 1987: Flanagan may never have tossed a complete game no-hitter, but today he gets victimized by one. Milwaukee’s Juan Nieves shuts down the Orioles, allowing five walks but no hits, while Flanagan is unable to make it out of the seventh inning. Milwaukee wins, 7-0.

May 7, 1987: Flanagan drops his eighth straight decision, the longest losing streak of his career.

Toronto years

Oct. 3, 1987: It’s the biggest regular-season start of Flanagan’s career, and he is up to the challenge. Unfortunately for him, so is the other pitcher.

Toronto squares off against Detroit on the next-to-last day of the season, with the Jays ahead of the Tigers by one game in the AL East. If Toronto wins this one, they clinch the division. Flanagan allows only two runs—one earned—and after nine innings, the game is tied, 2-2. Into overtime.

Though counterpart Jack Morris is pulled from the game, Flanagan marches on, retiring Detroit in the 10th inning and again in the 11th, with the score still tied, 2-2. Toronto pulls Flanagan in the 12th, and things immediately fall apart, as Detroit scores that inning for the win, and wins again the next day for the division.

In the 24 years since then, a pitcher has gone 11 innings only six times.

Sept. 11, 1988: It’s taken over a year, but Flanagan finally pitches again in Baltimore. He’s Toronto’s starting pitcher and gets stuck with the loss, as he allows three runs in 5.2 IP as Baltimore wins, 4-2.

June 27, 1989: History occurs in a Flanagan start. It’s the first game ever featuring two black managers as Cito Gaston’s Blue Jays play Frank Robinson’s Orioles. Flanagan pitchers poorly and the bullpen even worse, allowing Baltimore to coast to an easy 16-6 win.

Oct. 7, 1989: ALCS Game Four: Flanagan makes his last postseason appearance, and it’s not his best work. The A’s beat the Blue Jays 6-5, largely thanks to a trio of gopher balls Flanagan surrenders, most memorably a long bomb by Jose Canseco that landed in the Skydome’s upper deck.

April 28, 1990: Flanagan allows a lead-off home run, one of seven he surrenders in his 404 stats, to a young White Sox outfielder named Sammy Sosa. It’s career home run No. 5 for Sosa.

Baltimore return

April 8, 1991: It’s Opening Day and Flanagan finally steps on the field wearing the old orange-and-black uniform. With Chicago brutalizing the Birds 9-1, Flanagan pitches a perfect ninth inning, fanning one batter.

May 15, 1991: Queen Elizabeth of England attends an Orioles game as the special guest of President George H. W. Bush. Flanagan probably wishes the day had been rained out. Pitching in relief, he surrenders two singles and a double. Ah, well.

R.I.P., Mike Flanagan

July 13, 1991: Flanagan never quite got that no-hitter on his own, but today he helps his team toss one.

After starter Bob Mlicki tosses six hitless innings against Oakland, Flanagan enters in the seventh and keeps the A’s from getting a hit.

Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson follow with hitless innings of their own, and the quarter of Orioles pitchers succeeds in pitching their no-hitter, beating Oakland, 2-0.

Sept. 26, 1991: Against Boston, Flanagan pitches one inning of scoreless relief, helping to set up one nice moment for his teammate, Dwight Evans.

For many years Evans played for Boston, but as an aging vet with less than two weeks of pro ball left in him, Evans plays for Baltimore. And he gets a last little moment of glory in this game.

With the bases loaded and the scored tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Evans draws a base on balls, a walk-off walk to help his current team beat his old one.

June 13, 1991: It’s probably the worst outing of his career. Pitching one inning in relief, Flanagan allows eight runs, all earned, on six hits and three walks. The opposing Tigers win, 15-1.

Sept. 27, 1992: It’s the perfect ending to Flanagan’s career. In the top of the eighth of a game Baltimore’s losing, 6-1 to Boston, Orioles manager Johnny Oates has a neat idea.

He not only tells longtime Baltimore warhorse Flanagan to enter the game, but likewise informs veteran catcher Rick Dempsey.

Dempsey was a lot like Flanagan, a long-time Orioles who’d gone away near the end of his career only to return for the final moments. In fact, this would be the final career appearance for both men.

Flanagan pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two meaningless singles with Dempsey calling pitches for him one final time.

It’s a shame his life had such a sad ending, but at least his career had a pleasant finale.

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Andy Moursund
11 years ago

Nice article, Chris.  Just one small correction: That 1977 Brooks Robinson Day was a Sunday afternoon game, not a night game. And the player who may have had the fondest memory of that afternoon was Boston’s Ted Cox, who made his ML debut and went 4-for-4.

Jim C
11 years ago

i used to live in the DC area and saw Flanagan pitch in person and on tv many times, and he was a fierce competitor, who always gave eveerything he had, and pitched through numerous injuries. He was also an entertaining and insightful broadcaster. I got to watch Hideo Nomo pitch a no-hitter against Baltimore on tv, with Flanagan and Jim Palmer broadcasting the game, and their commentary added a lot to the excitement of the game.

Chris J.
11 years ago

That should say Mike Flanagan tosses a CG SHO 1-0 win over Gaylord Perry on 5/11/83.  D’OH!  I always get those guys confused.

11 years ago

Great stuff as always, Chris. Just one suggested addition: Flanagan was the last Oriole to pitch at Memorial Stadium:


Chris J.
11 years ago

Rob – oh, that’s a nice one!  Thanks.

11 years ago

“Flanagan tosses a complete game shutout in the loss.”
I don’t think this is possible even pitching for the Giants or Padres (Throw in some names like A’s or Mariners and “West Coast Offense” means the opposite in baseball than in football).

11 years ago

“For the only time in his career, Rick Dempsey win a game 1-0 while hurling a complete-game shutout.”

Shouldn’t it be “Mike Flanagan wins…”, not “Rick Dempsey win”?

“Toronto squares off against Detroit on the next-to-last day of the season, with the Jays ahead of the Tigers by one game in the AL East. If Toronto wins this one, they clinch the division.”

Both teams were tied for first with 96-64 records entering this game. The Jays would’ve clinched a tie if they won this game.