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Blue Jays Birthdays: Mike Flanagan

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Toronto Blue Jays

Mike Flanagan was a left-handed pitcher who played in the majors for 18 seasons. Four of them with the Blue Jays.

He would have turned 69 today, but he passed away back in 2011.

He was a good pitcher. You don’t play for 18 years without being a good pitcher. He finished 167-143 with a 3.90 ERA in 526 games, 404 starts.

For the first 13 years, he played with the Orioles. His best season was 1979. He went 23-9 with a 3.08 ERA in 39 games, 38 starts pitching 265 innings. He won his Cy Young award that year. He was part of an excellent pitching staff. In 1980 he gave nicknames to pitchers on the team. He called himself ‘Cy Young’, Jim Palmer ‘Cy Old’, Steve Stone, who would win the award that year, Cy Present and Storm Davis ‘Cy Future’. Davis had great ‘stuff’ but never put it all together. He also said that when you are done, you are called Cy-onara.

We picked him up in trade from the Orioles, on August 31, for Oswaldo Peraza (who would pitch 19 games in his MLB career) and Jose Mesa (who would go on to have a 19-year MLB career, pitching mostly out of the bullpen, he finished with 321 saves. His best season was 1995 when he had a 1.13 ERA and 46 saves).

We grabbed Flanagan for the playoff run. When we got him, we were in second place, just 1 game back from the Tigers.

If you are old enough, you will forever remember the 1987 season. The Jays had a terrific start to September, going 19-5 and running off a 7 game win streak from September 20 to 26th. That put us 3.5 games ahead of the Tigers with 7 games to play. Unfortunately, we lost all 7 of those games, 4 of them to the Tigers, and finish in second place.

Flangan had a nice run, making 7 starts with a 2.37 ERA. His last start was the second last game of the season, a game we needed to win since we were a game back from the Tigers. Flanagan pitched 11 innings, leaving with a 2-2 tie. Mike gave up 1 earned and 1 unearned run (that was the game of the Manny Lee error). If you wanted to make a list of great starts in Blue Jays history, that one has to be on the list. By coincidence, Bob Elliot sent an email reminding me of the game and mentioning that, when Jimy Williams took him out of the game, Flanagan said, “so you just want the 11 from me today?”. It’s unfortunate that Jack Morris also had a good start that day, allowing just 2 runs in 9 innings.

He would pitch 3 more seasons with the Jays (well 2 plus a month, he was released May 8. 1990). He was 26-27 with a 3.94 ERA in 76 starts with the Jays. He made a start in our ALCS loss to the A’s in 1989, taking the loss in game 4, giving up 5 runs in 4.1 innings in our 6-5 defeat. He gave up 2 home runs to Rickey Henderson and 1 to Jose Canseco.

Flanagan signed with the Orioles in 1991 and pitched out of the bullpen, putting up a 2.38 ERA in 64 appearances.

He would go on to become a pitching coach and a broadcaster. And then VP of baseball operation all for the Orioles.

Flanagan was a great interview. He had an excellent sense of humor. I remember liking him for his personality more than his pitching. By the time he was with the Jays he was more of a junk ball pitcher than someone that got you out with great stuff. He threw a slow curve and a change. He would also drop to sidearm at times.

Unfortunately, he suffered from depression and took his own life in 2011. The Orioles didn’t retire his number (46), but no Oriole has worn it since 2012. When you listened to him speak you would have never guessed he had depression. You can’t always tell who is suffering and who isn’t.