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April 07. 2013 10:22PM

Manchester school board to consider naming for Memorial field for Mike Flanagan

MANCHESTER - The city's School Board is scheduled to take up a request tonight to name the baseball field at Memorial High School in honor of the late Mike Flanagan.

The request stems from a memo by Mayor Ted Gatsas on Jan. 9, asking aldermen to explore naming the field after the former Baltimore Orioles Cy Young Award-winning pitcher and Memorial graduate. Tonight's meeting of the full School Board gets underway at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

"Mike was an important student and athlete at Memorial High School and his family and friends believe this would be a wonderful tribute," wrote Gatsas in his memo.

Flanagan, who celebrated a World Series championship in 1983 with the Baltimore Orioles, was found dead at his Maryland home in August 2011. His death was ruled a suicide. He was 59.

Recognized at the 2000 New Hampshire sports banquet as one of the state's top 10 athletes of the 20th century, 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."

While in the Queen City, Flanagan helped lead Memorial to back-to-back NHIAA Class L titles in basketball and baseball in 1970 and '71. In college, pitching at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he posted a 9-1 record in 1973 with a 1.52 ERA.

Fast forward to 1979, and he had become the best pitcher in the American League with a 23-9 record, 3.08 ERA and 190 strikeouts, earning him the Cy Young Award as baseball's top pitcher. In 1983, after going 12-4 during the regular season, he pitched Baltimore to a win over the Chicago White Sox in the American League Championship Series, en route to a World Series title for the Orioles.

Flanagan won 167 games over his 18-year major league career, and seven postseason contests.

After playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, he ended his career in an Orioles uniform, pitching 42 games for Baltimore in 1992. At the time of his death, he was one of the team's television broadcasters.

The city's Committee on Lands and Buildings has recommended Memorial's Field be named in Flanagan's honor, subject to the approval of the School Board, but not without some opposition.

During a committee discussion held Jan. 15, Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur voted against the request.

According to the official minutes of that session, Levasseur said, "My understanding is that when we named a field after Clem Lemire or we name things after people from Manchester, they have actually been people who have been very involved in their communities, not just because they were born here and then did well at a high school level. I'm going to ask you this because I don't know and maybe you know more than I do, but I don't remember Mike Flanagan ever becoming very involved in our community after he made it to the major leagues. As a matter of fact, I don't remember him ever coming back and doing anything for the City of Manchester.

"There are a lot of other athletes like Steve Balbone or Joey Senical, who was a community guy who still lives in the city who pitched two shutouts in the last year of my high school career. I see a lot of people who are still living in the city of Manchester, who give a lot of the city of Manchester, who still live here, work here. I don't remember Mike Flanagan ever coming back to Manchester and performing any kind of charitable work or community activist type work or anything of that nature in the city of Manchester."

Attempts to reach Levasseur this weekend for comment were unsuccessful.

Details regarding possible signage showcasing Flanagan's name at the field have yet to be worked out.

The Board of Aldermen accepted the recommendation to name the field at a meeting on Feb. 5.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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