I have no memory of ever seeing Mike Flanagan pitch. He won his Cy Young award when I was a year old. His Orioles team won the 1983 World Series, when I was 5. Still, his death, by apparent suicide, has hit me hard. Flanagan is one of players most responsible for my love of baseball.
My first baseball glove was a Mike Flanagan.
I was probably 4 or 5 when I got it. My father had to explain to me what it meant to have someone’s name in the pocket of the mitt. “No, it’s not an actual autograph. It just means he uses the same glove that you do.”
Mike Flanagan was on the Orioles. It was the first time I found out there were teams other than the Yankees. Until that point, I just assumed they played against the same nameless bunch of players every day. And Flanagan was a pitcher, which, as a little kid, I believed was called a thrower. His existence as a professional baseball player raised questions that I needed answered. And through those answers an entire world opened up.
The Mike Flanagan glove was held together by large leather straps that would sometimes become untied while I stood in the outfield during tee ball and early little league games. I did not untie them. They just became untied. Let me repeat that. I DID NOT UNTIE THEM. It’s an important point, because the fact that those straps became untied became an ongoing battle between my father and me. He wanted me to learn to value and take care of my possessions. I wanted him to learn that I wasn’t lying to him. The issue still comes up sometimes. He is still wrong.
I never actually became a Mike Flanagan fan. I don’t know his stats or what his best pitch was. His was just a name that always caught my attention. “Oh, Mike Flanagan is pitching? My first glove was a Mike Flanagan model.” That’s what happened last night, when I heard that he had been found dead near his Maryland home. “Oh, Mike Flanagan died? My first glove was a Mike Flanagan.”
It’s a lot more important than it sounds.