Mike Flanagan was getting pounded all over the ballpark in Osaka, Japan, when Orioles manager Joe Altobelli went to the mound to end the misery that day in 1984.
“Not your day, Flanny,” Altobelli said as Flanagan handed him the ball.
Flanagan paused before leaving the mound.
“You know,” he said, “I heard this might happen.”
“What’s that?” Altobelli asked.
“My slider breaks the opposite way on this side of the world,” he said without cracking a smile.
Altobelli did not laugh because, well, the line was vintage Flanagan. It was both bizarre, and in a very strange way, possibly true. Later, Flanagan would laugh until tears ran down his face that his manager had bought the whole thing.
By the time I saw him in the clubhouse an hour or so later, he was polishing his lines.
“How am I supposed to pitch on a pregame meal of Pigeon McNuggets?” he asked, holding up one of the tasty treats the Japanese served us.
Maybe he could have broken out his spit ball that day. Flanny had a great one, polished it, perfected it, could have used it as a devastating weapon. He never threw it in a game.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I did,” he said.