Davey Johnson's association with Mike Flanagan was mostly marked by a series of comings and goings; the Orioles drafted Flanagan the summer after Johnson was traded to the Braves, Flanagan was the pitching coach the year before and after Johnson managed the team, and the two were fixtures at a number of Orioles alumni events.
The one time their paths intersected, though, was in 1996 and 1997, the two years Johnson took his old team to the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Flanagan was a broadcaster for the Orioles that year. Johnson would have Flanagan work with the Orioles pitchers, as well, and in that time, he filled Johnson's memory with enough stories to create a lasting friendship.
"Everybody that knew Flanny loved him," the Nationals manager said. "Whether he was the GM or in uniform or whatever, he was always a delight to be around."
Flanagan also made a regular habit of calling Johnson while he was the Orioles GM and Johnson was working with USA Baseball. "He cheered me up a lot of times, by calling me up and just having an interest in me - what I was doing, what I wanted to do," Johnson said. "That really meant a lot to me."
One of Johnson's fondest memories of Flanagan also came on one of Flanagan's proudest days as an Oriole; he came back to Baltimore as a reliever in 1991, and was the last Orioles pitcher to record an out at Memorial Stadium when he struck out the Tigers' last two hitters in the final game there on Oct. 6.
After that game, several dozen greats from the Orioles' World Series teams in the 1960s, '70s and '80s took the field, all assuming their old positions. Flanagan stayed on the mound with Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson and others, and Johnson went out to second base, where he'd helped the Orioles reach three straight World Series, winning one, from 1969-71.
"That was a real historic day," Johnson said. "That was a wonderful old ballpark. I saw many Colts games there - Johnny U. and company. It was like a family. We all did just about everything together back in those days. It was an old, very lovable ballpark."
When Johnson got back into managing after an 11-year hiatus this year, Flanagan was in his second year back in the broadcast booth, serving as an Orioles color analyst for MASN. The two hadn't had much chance to talk in the last few years, but when he got the news of Flanagan's death on Wednesday night, Johnson was left wishing he'd have been able to call Flanagan one more time.
"I was pretty shaken. I wish that I had a chance to talk to him ahead of time," Johnson said. "I've lost a lot of people very close to me, and I wish I had chance to talk to him, cheer him up like he's done for me in the past."