Flanagan, Davis get a cheery greeting

April 09, 1991|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Evening Sun Staff

Amid the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day, Glenn Davis' heart was pounding and Mike Flanagan's stomach was churning.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have butterflies when I walked out for [pre-game] introductions," Flanagan said yesterday.

"My heart was pumping so much," said Davis, "I was zoned-out. I was in the back of the dugout, and all my thoughts were about the past, the present and the future."

Davis is 30 years old. Flanagan is 39. Which merely reinforces the idea that while major-league baseball is played by grownups, it is still a game for little boys.

Together, Davis and Flanagan were a big part of what made the Orioles' 38th and last Opening Day at Memorial Stadium such a special occasion. Together, they are starting over in Baltimore.

Davis arrived at "A Season to Remember" with a resume that included 166 home runs and 518 RBIs during five seasons with the Houston Astros. Flanagan, who achieved Cy Young success in Birdland before a 1987 trade to Toronto, renewed acquaintances after rehabilitating a cranky left shoulder that kept him off a big-league roster since last May.

Forget the desultory 9-1 loss to the White Sox. What you can remember about yesterday were the ovations that Flanagan and Davis received from the crowd of 50,213.

Flanagan, a favorite son on 33rd Street, drew the longest and loudest ovation in pre-game introductions. He tipped his cap once in acknowledgment, and when the roar continued, he held it higher still. "Paul Kilgus told me to do it [again] or they weren't going to stop," Flanagan said in way of explanation.

"It's something I'll never forget. I didn't expect it. It shows you that Baltimore people don't forget."

Elrod Hendricks did not see the ovation Flanagan got, but he heard it down in the bullpen where the Orioles' bullpen coach was doing his job. Hendricks, who perhaps knows the pulse of Orioles fans better than anyone, called it a well-deserved form of appreciation.

"Mike was always one of my favorites," Hendricks said. "I've said it before, he will always be an Oriole.

"In the fall [of '87] before he left, the fans never had a chance to thank him. Today they did."

They thanked Flanagan for his 139 wins in an Oriole uniform. They thanked him for his Cy Young season of 1979. They thanked him for the durability and toughness he showed while pitching in 344 games and 1,225 innings.

And when he pitched his 1,226th inning and in his 345th game as an Oriole, they thanked him again. Flanagan left the mound after a 1-2-3 ninth inning to a second ovation.

"I've had standing boo-vations, too," he said, laughing with reporters at his own joke. "It was very flattering. I was taken back by it all.

"I always felt my best years were given on this field with this club. It was special to be part of this."

It was no less special for Davis, who was traded to the Orioles last January. Heart racing after the pre-game ceremonies, he responded with a two-out, run-scoring double to the leftfield corner in the first inning. He went 1-for-4 in his Orioles debut and made a diving stop at first to rob Ozzie Guillen of a hit in the fifth.

On his last at-bat, Davis sent a Jack McDowell pitch to the warning track down the line in left. What made this fly ball special was that he hit it off the end of the bat and powered it with a one-armed swing.

"A good sign," he said, smiling, mindful of his former baseball home in Houston.

"I asked Randy [Milligan] how the ball travels here and he said normally the wind is blowing out. He said the ball carries better than it did today. That ball wouldn't have come close to the warning track in the Astrodome."

Davis said he was disappointed to lose, but nevertheless acknowledged that yesterday was "a new day for me."

"This is turning another page in a book, going to a new chapter," he said. "I experienced a lot of things today I hadn't experienced. Right now I'm looking forward to having dinner with my wife and talking about them."

And if Davis is going to strengthen a lineup that had obvious holes a year ago, Flanagan is trying to make the best of his new opportunity. After 165 big-league wins and 404 big-league starts, the lefthander will work out of the bullpen for now.

"If you asked me three or four years ago if I'd like to go to the bullpen, my answer would have been a definitive 'No,' " Flanagan said. "I knew this spring things would be different."

Asked if he'd like to fill the fifth spot in the pitching rotation, Flanagan neatly sidestepped controversy. "Those aren't my cards to play," he said. "My job is to get lefthanders out . . . My next goal is to get the next guy out. Forty starts, 280 innings, I've readjusted those sights."

The view from the bullpen looks good, though, for Flanagan. His left shoulder is sound, his velocity is up to speed, and his savvy is refreshing. He is eager to tackle his new job in the bullpen.

"I'm kind of excited about it, to tell you the truth," he said.

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