"After Mike died," Alex says, "many close friends told me of friends and family members who had committed suicide, and I received dozens of condolence cards from casual baseball fans who described themselves as survivors. The common thread in the stories was depression, along with the feelings of either hopelessness or insignificance."
She reaches for a lesson or a message in Mike's death: "I want this to be a wake-up call to anyone suffering from depression, dark or suicidal thoughts. There are more people than you'll ever believe that know exactly how you feel, and it's OK to ask for help."
People who knew Mike wonder how we missed seeing pain so severe he would take his own life and leave people he loved in so much grief and anguish.
He was intelligent and witty. He wrote comic poems, loved all kinds of music, loved the outdoors. He long ago earned the respect of thousands of fans around Baltimore, who remember Orioles Magic. Another generation knew him as a competent television broadcaster and knowledgeable baseball man.
He was good at a lot of things, especially, it's clear, at hiding his pain.
Less than two weeks before his death, Mike had taken part in the inductions of longtime trainer Richie Bancells and former shortstop Mike Bordick into the Orioles Hall of Fame. He had appeared happy on that occasion and seemed to have become engaged in the game again, enjoying regular conversations with manager Buck Showalter.
Over the past year, Alex has been going through Mike's possessions, reliving important moments in his life.
Among the many cherished items from his playing days were two photographs that he had had framed together: on the left, Bob Turley throwing the first pitch for the home team at the Orioles' first game at Memorial Stadium, April 15, 1954; on the right, Mike Flanagan throwing the last pitch for the home team in the final game at Memorial Stadium, Oct. 6, 1991.
Mike was particularly proud of having struck out the last two Detroit Tigers batters in front of a nostalgic crowd that remembered his best days. When he came off the mound, in the long shadows of that autumn afternoon, there was such an ovation that Mike lifted his head, raised his black Orioles cap and wiped a tear from his eye.
"That," he later told Alex, "was my most selfish moment in baseball."
Information about suicide prevention
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: afsp.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Maryland Crisis Hotline: 1-800-422-0009; TDD line 410-531-5086