Davey Johnson puts on a Washington Nationals uniform each day now, the team’s manager since June, but he’ll be the first to tell you that there will always be a place deep in his heart where he’s a Baltimore Oriole.
It was a part that grew heavy Wednesday night when Johnson learned of the death of former Orioles Cy Young winner, general manager and broadcaster Mike Flanagan at the age of 59.
Flanagan, who was a color analyst on MASN most recently, was found dead near his Baltimore home Wednesday evening from what police said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As news of his death rippled through the baseball community, Johnson was informed of the tragic news immediately following the Nationals’ 4-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He stayed late at Nationals Park, watching the telecast of the Orioles game and the emotional postgame coverage.
“I was a bit shaken,” Johnson said. “I just wish that I’d had a chance to talk to him ahead of time and cheer him up like he’s done me in the past.”
Johnson and Flanagan never played together in Baltimore. Johnson’s time as a player there ended in 1972. Flanagan wasnt drafted until 1973, and made his major league debut in 1975. But the two got to know each other well through the years. When Johnson managed the Orioles in 1996 and 1997, Flanagan was a broadcaster for the team. The two would talk often about an organization both felt a familial bond with.
“He was a very settling human being,” Johnson said. “You knew he was listening to you and sympathized with you. He’d call me up when he was the GM and we’d talk a lot when I was there managing. He cheered me up a lot of times by calling me up and just having an interest in me.”
As Johnson left the Orioles’ organization, eventually moved into an advisor role with the Nationals and became involved with USA Baseball, the two didn’t speak as frequently. But the last two years, Johnson said, he’s felt as though Flanagan was never too far away when he’d watch Orioles broadcasts and listen to his analysis.
“I feel like I’ve been talking to him,” Johnson said. “I’ve been listening to him and sympathizing with what they were going through over the years. [I have] a lot of memories, and they’ll always remain good for me.
“I’ve lost a lot of people very close to me. … I just wish I’d known he was having such a struggle. I’d sure like to talk to him. It’s just a terrible loss. Everybody who knew Flanny loved him.”
Flanagan, an 18-year major league veteran and 1979 Cy Young winner, was survived by his wife, Alex, and three daughters, Kathryn, Kerry and Kendall.
Notes: Catcher Ivan Rodriguez will test his strained right oblique this weekend when he begins a rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 7 with the strain.