Don Gerding of Rodgers Forge couldn't believe it when he heard the news that former Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan had died.
"It was upsetting," he said. Gerding worked with the former Oriole pitcher the 1970s and 80s, when Flanagan did some rep work in the printing and engraving business for Dempsey & Carroll while he was still pitching at Memorial Stadium.
"He was a 33rd Street phenomenon," Gerding said.
Flanagan, a Cy Young Award winner who became a television announcer and top executive with the club, died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Wednesday afternoon on his property in Sparks, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation into his death.
"I think he was the inspiration for a sculpture the company commissioned," Gerding said. "It showed a forearm with the hand wrapped around the ball. They called it 'the last pitch of 33rd Street.'
"But Mike was also a neat guy, a wonderful conversationalist, the kind of guy you just enjoyed being with. He was always up.
"I think he became dejected when he didn't do well as the Orioles' general manager," Gerding said. "Office work is different. It didn't fit his sytle. He wasn't an office kind of guy, he was a dugout guy, a ballplayer."
The phone rang early Thursday morning in Frank and Dottie Kaufmann's home in Stoneridge. It was their daughter, Karen, who is in her late 40s now, calling to see if her parents knew Flanagan had died.
"Dottie and I went to games with the three kids since they were only 5 or 6," Frank Kaufmann said. "We made sure the kids knew the rules of the game before we started going.
"We had tickets right up to the end of Memorial Stadium. They used to let you bring food in and Dottie would put together a picnic supper with fried chicken.
"The kids liked Mike Flanagan. He and the Orioles were something the whole family shared together.
"He was a great player, and he was intelligent and had a dry sense of humor. He was a real gentleman."
Flanagan kept a low profile in the Sparks area, said Nicholas Price, who owns Price's Store on York Road, just south of Flanagan's home.
Price said Flanagan often stopped by to buy groceries and order a chicken salad sandwich from the deli.
"He was very nice, very friendly and he had a dry sense of humor," Price said. "If somebody recognized him and started talking to him about the Orioles, he'd be a gentleman and talk, but it was almost like he was shy about who he was."
Price said he once asked for Flanagan's autograph for a friend and now wishes he had gotten one for himself.