Former Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he had spoken with Flanagan several times over the winter and called his death a "bad dream."
Thorne said he developed a bond with Flanagan while calling games with him the past two seasons on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. He refused to blame his friend's death on Flanagan's disappointing tenure running the club.
"While there was disappointment, I don't think he ever thought of it as failure," Thorne said. "It was an effort that didn't succeed. It wasn't for a lack of effort and work at it. That's a big difference. I don't think everything that happened to him should be put on the fact that his time in the front office didn't get the results that he wanted. He was a much bigger person, a much stronger person."
Thorne said he was struggling to accept that he would not call this weekend's Yankees series with his friend as planned.
Flanagan was a stalwart presence during the Orioles' last run of extended success, which culminated with a World Series victory in 1983. After a standout career at the University of Massachusetts, where he also played basketball with Julius Erving, Flanagan seemed the successor to a line of Orioles pitching royalty.
The lefthander used a hard sinker and big, looping curve to win 23 games and the Cy Young Award as the Orioles rolled to the World Series in 1979. But he stoically pitched through arm and knee pains that would have benched many. Perhaps as a result, he had to get through the second half of his career more on guile than on great pitches.
Win or lose, he was known as one of the funniest men in baseball. After he retired in 1992, Flanagan found success as a broadcaster and pitching coach. Foss said Orioles owner Peter Angelos told him as early as 1994 that he saw something special in Flanagan, a combination of intelligence and magnetism that could make him a great executive. Angelos did not respond to interview requests Thursday.
In six years running baseball operations, first with Jim Beattie and then with Duquette, Flanagan oversaw clubs with a combined record of 430 wins and 541 losses.
McGregor recalled how Flanagan failed to return calls in the months after he lost his job. McGregor even mentioned his concerns to other former teammates such as Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey.
"I said, 'Guys, I'm afraid. He's in a bad spot,'" McGregor remembered Thursday. "I was concerned about this back then."
Even so, nothing prepared friends for the news that started to spread Wednesday evening. They could not reconcile it with the Flanagan they had known, the flinty New Englander whose bone-dry quips could break up any room.
"I never saw that flame flicker at all," Foss said, reflecting on Flanagan's passion for baseball. "He loved hanging around the park, the environment of Orioles baseball. I probably watched 500 games with him, and he became a special person in my life. … This is a damn tragedy."
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