Updated August 25, 2011 at 2:12 p.m. CT
BALTIMORE (AP) — The death of former Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan has been ruled a suicide. The Maryland medical examiner says Flanagan died Wednesday of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.
The 59-year-old pitcher’s body was found about 250 feet behind his home. An investigation showed he was home alone and that Flanagan was upset about financial issues. He left no note.
Police say Flanagan’s wife last spoke to her husband about 1 a.m. Wednesday. She told police he sounded upset and promised he would talk to her later.
When she did not hear from Flanagan, she called a neighbor to check on him. The neighbor went to the home and called 911 after failing to find him.
Authorities found a body outside Flanagan’s home in Monkton, Md., on Wednesday afternoon. Hours later, the Orioles confirmed that Flanagan – who served the team as a pitcher, front office executive and television broadcaster – was dead.
“I am so sorry to hear about Mike’s passing. He was a good friend and teammate,” said Hall of Fame third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., a former teammate of Flanagan’s. “… Mike was an Oriole through and through and he will be sorely missed by family, friends and fans. This is a sad day.”
Flanagan was a crafty left-hander who went 167-143 with a 3.90 ERA over 18 seasons with Baltimore and Toronto. He didn’t possess an overpowering fastball, but won a fair share of games by depending on a slow curve, a sinker and a changeup.
An All-Star in 1978, Flanagan received the Cy Young Award with the Orioles in 1979 after going 23-9 with a 3.08 ERA and five shutouts. The Orioles lost the World Series that year in seven games to Pittsburgh.
“He’s one of our family. A great friend, competitor, whit, funny, hysterical, talented,” former teammate and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer said after doing the Orioles’ telecast Wednesday night in Minneapolis. “He was a breath of fresh air with his humor, his insight all those things. He was just a terrific guy.”
Flanagan played for Baltimore’s 1983 championship team, finishing 12-4 despite missing nearly three months with ligament damage in his left knee.
He was 141-116 with Baltimore and is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. Flanagan was also the final Oriole to pitch at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore’s home from 1954-1991.
“Since the day I was given the number 46 I’ve had thousands of people tell me that that was the number of their favorite pitcher for the Orioles when they were growing up,” Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said. “From Day One I think I’ve been reminded of the legacy and the work that Mike did not only as a player, but as a member of the community in Baltimore.”
Flanagan’s career with Toronto was not as profound. Traded from Baltimore to the Blue Jays on August 31, 1987, for pitchers Oswaldo Peraza and Jose Mesa, he went 3-2 with Toronto that season, then 13-13 and 8-10.
He signed as a free agent with Baltimore in 1991 and pitched out of the bullpen during his final two seasons.
After his playing career, Flanagan worked as the Orioles’ vice president for baseball operations and executive VP. He teamed with Jim Duquette in the front office from 2005-07 in an effort to make Baltimore a winner.
“We spent hour after hour, day after day, trying to improve the Orioles,” Duquette said late Wednesday night. “What stood out to me was his love for the Orioles and Baltimore. He was just so passionate about trying to get the Orioles back to where they were.”
Duquette said he was “devastated and heartbroken” to learn of Flanagan’s death.
“I just talked to him yesterday,” Duquette said. “He was looking forward to broadcasting the Yankees series coming up.”
In recent years, including this season, Flanagan did color commentary for the team’s TV network, combining his wry sense of humor with a knowledge of the game that came from decades of experience.
“It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of my friend Mike Flanagan earlier this evening,” Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. “In over a quarter century with the organization, Flanny became an integral part of the Orioles family, for his accomplishments both on and off the field. His loss will be felt deeply and profoundly by all of us with the ballclub and by Orioles fans everywhere who admired him.”
Flanagan grew up in Manchester, N.H., and pitched for the University of Massachusetts before being drafted by the Orioles in the seventh round of the 1973 draft. He made his major league debut in 1975. From 1977 through 1983, he made more starts (223) than any pitcher in the American League and was third in wins (109) during that span.
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