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NH native Mike Flanagan recalled as top athlete

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 25. 2011 12:06AM
Manchester native and longtime Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, right, is shown with manager Earl Weaver in this file photo. Flanagan was found dead Wednesday at his Maryland home. He was 59. (FILE)

MANCHESTER - Ron Beaurivage will forever be linked to Mike Flanagan and upon hearing the news of his best friend's untimely death Wednesday, Beaurivage expressed the feelings of many Granite Staters today.

'Totally shocked, couldn 't believe it when I first heard about it,' said Beaurivage. 'You know, we played sports together from when I was 6 years old through our college days at UMass (Amherst). There's no question he was the best athlete period from this state. He was just a phenomenal athlete and more importantly a great person.'

Beaurivage, who played baseball and basketball with Flanagan, shared some memorable stories.

'Whether it was Little League, when I struck out three times against him, or when I played with him in Babe Ruth, American Legion and high school at Memorial, no one could touch Mike when he was on the mound or on the court,' said Beaurivage. 'He must have thrown two or three no-hitters alone for Memorial. I remember telling him one time while he was actually working on a no-hitter that the ball better not come to me or I'd let it through intentionally. He'd look at me and just laugh.'

Beaurivage and Flanagan were the two standouts who led Memorial to consecutive Class L basketball titles in 1970 and 1971.

'The one game I'll never forget was a regular season game at Nashua when he and Adam Gureckis (Nashua) put on a show,' Beaurivage said. 'In an era where there were no three-point shots, Mike scored 44 and Adam had 38 and we won, 96-88. It was incredible before a packed house. Both guys fed off each other and no one could miss.'

Beaurivage said Flanagan 'opened doors for me and others while we were at Memorial. The scouts came out to see Mike and I was able to get scouted because of him.'

The last time Beaurivage saw or spoke to Flanagan was 12 years ago at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

'I brought my son and two friends and Mike took care of us like gold,' said Beaurivage. 'He brought us up the booth to meet Jim Palmer, who surprised me by saying he now understood why Mike scored a lot of points in high school. Palmer credited me for being big and setting all the picks for Mike.'

Before leaving Baltimore that day, Beaurivage said he shared a special moment with Flanagan.

'Mike turned to me and thanked me. I said 'why?' He said I was the best teammate he ever had because I handled the role of playing second fiddle to him so well for so many years. He said he was happy I finally asked him for something because I had done so much for him over the years. That's something I will never forget.'

Peter Poirier, Flanagan's head basketball at Memorial, said, 'Mike is the best athlete I've ever coached. He had a lot of natural talent and he also got some great coaching from his father, Ed, at a young age.'

Poirier said he knew Flanagan wouldn't pursue a basketball career after high school. 'He was outstanding in high school, but just didn't have the foot speed or quickness to play in the NBA. Baseball was his sport, but he suffered an arm injury one year playing in an American Legion World Series game with Sweeney Post in Klamath Falls (Oregon). It cost him some money because he didn't get drafted very high. After going around the country trying to find doctors to help him, he ended up finding one in Manchester. It was Dr. John Parfitt who strengthened his arm again. After that, there's was no stopping him when he got to Baltimore.'

George 'Butch' Joseph of Manchester, who served as a league official when Flanagan played Babe Ruth baseball and also officiated many of his basketball games, said, 'Mike was a natural talent. I go back further and I would definitely put Flanagan with Billy Pappas (Manchester Central standout in early 1950s, and UNH great in baseball, basketball and football) and Darrell Buck (Memorial graduate in 1964, football, track and baseball standout) as the best athletes I've ever seen.'

Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano, who heard the news following his team's 16-3 win against Trenton Wednesday night, knew Flanagan from his days with the Orioles in 2005.

'Here's a guy I grew up watching and had his baseball card, and I actually worked for him when he was GM (with Jim Beattie),' Fasano said. 'He brought a lot to the table. He accomplished a lot as a player, and he was always trying to do what was best for the ballclub as a GM. It's a big loss for baseball. It's a shame.'

Honored at the 2000 New Hampshire sports banquet as one of the state's top 10 athletes of the 20th century, Mike Flanagan sent a written appreciation of the honor.

'New Hampshire offered me the opportunity to learn my craft,' he wrote. 'The memories of those years in youth baseball are more vivid than my major league memories.'

Flanagan finished fifth in the survey that produced the rankings of the state's top athletes. But many of those who saw him star in baseball and basketball at Manchester Memorial High, before going on to win a Cy Young Award with the Baltimore Orioles as the American League's top pitcher, would argue that he was worthy of even greater stature.

In 1970 and '71, he led Memorial to back-to-back NHIAA Class L titles on the hardwood and the diamond. Moving on to the University of Massachusetts, he focused on baseball and in 1973, he recorded a 9-1 record and 1.52 ERA.

By 1979, he was the top pitcher in the American League, going 23-9 with a 3.08 ERA and 190 strikeouts in hus Cy Young season. In 1983, after going 12-4 during the regular season, he helped lead the Orioles to a World Series championship, pitching Baltimore to a critical victory over the Chicago White Sox in the American League Championship Series.

He went on to conclude his 19-season big-league career with a record of 167-143 and a 3.90 ERA before continuing his association with the Orioles as a coach, front-office executive and broadcaster.

During Wednesday night's NESN broadcast of the game between the Red Sox and Rangers, a clearly saddened analyst Jerry Remy - who knew Flanagan as both a major-league opponent and fellow broadcaster - expressed his admiration for Flanagan and the multiple roles he had filled within the Orioles organization. Remy's broadcast partner, Don Orsillo, who was raised in Madison, noted that Flanagan was a New Hampshire native.

Red Sox/MLB Manchester