A couple of things came to mind when I heard the awful news about Mike Flanagan last week. First, he seemed to own the Tigers in the late 1970s and pretty much all of the ’80s.
The second was his brilliant performance against Detroit in game 161 of 1987 when he was pitching for the Blue Jays.
I had to look up the first at Baseball Reference.com and I was sort of right. In 49 career games against the Tigers (42 starts) Flanagan posted a 18-11 record and a 3.66 ERA — 8-8 at Tiger Stadium.
The only team in the old American League East against which he had a better winning percentage was Toronto (17-7). (Inexplicably, he was 8-12 against the Indians who, if it were not for the dreadful Blue Jays, would’ve been dead last in the East.)
I didn’t have to look up the second memory, because I was there for it.
On Saturday, Oct.3, 1987, with the Jays and Tigers tied for the East lead with two games to play. Flanagan, who’d been dealt from the Orioles on Aug. 31, faced off with Jack Morris in a game for the ages.
Flanagan pitched 11 innings, scattered eights hits, struck out nine and allowed just two runs, one earned. Morris matched him through nine, also allowing eight hits and two runs, both earned.
Flanagan was tremendous and there were moments, several, really, when we thought the Tigers were in deep trouble. But they managed to hang around and scratch across two, and eventually got the Toronto bullpen for a 3-2 win.
Morris was terrific that day, too. Even though the Tigers won the game, and the next to clinch the division, that day belonged to Mike Flanagan.
Update: The Free Press’s John Lowe wrote about the game here.