Mike Flanagan is the forgotten man among baseball’s 1979 superstars.
Like most major league seasons, that campaign featured all sorts of special moments, big performances, unusual milestones.
For instance …
The National League MVP award shared by Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell …
Old man Pops leading the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series title over the Baltimore Orioles …
Don Baylor slugging his way to the American League MVP award as his California Angels won their first-ever division title …
Cubs closer Bruce Sutter copping the NL Cy Young award even though brothers Phil Niekro (Braves) and Joe Niekro (Astros) led the circuit with 21 victories each …
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And, though, he doesn’t come up very often in quick discussions about that storied, long-ago season, much of the drama that eventually unfolded would have been impossible without the breakout performance of new Orioles ace Mike Flanagan.
“New” ace because Flanagan played in the shadows of future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer the first few years of his MLB career before busting through with 23 victories and copping the AL Cy Young in 1979.
That would be a high-water mark for Flanagan, who was one in a long line of big O’s winners under manager Earl Weaver, a roll call that included the likes of Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Mike Boddicker, Scott McGregor, and others during the 1970s and 1980s.
Hard to stand out long term with that group, and hard to stand out over the decades in a season that has become as legendary as 1979.
Heck, Flanagan was having trouble getting the recognition he deserved even by the next spring.
Because, when the 1980 Topps baseball cards rolled out of wax packs for the first time, collectors rightly found Flanagan on card #205 celebrating 1979’s victory leaders, sharing space with the Niekro brothers.
But, while Flanagan led all comers in wins across both leagues, and while the Niekros had to share honors in the NL, all three dudes got the same little rectangle of a picture, each covering about a third of the card front.
To compound the indignity, Flanagan was relegated to the last third of the pasteboard.
It foreshadowed the dimming limelight for the lefty who threatened to become the best in the biz over the long haul, but who ultimately won 20 games just once and made just one All-Star team (1978).
If you ever need proof of how fickle and tough baseball can be, just a take a glance at that 1980 Topps Victory Leaders card and remember Mike Flanagan’s sterling 1979 season, for just a moment.
If you enjoy the clean lines of 1979 Topps baseball cards, you’ll probably love this ultimate display piece …
It’s an uncut sheet that features the iconic Ozzie Smith rookie card, for sale on eBay.
Check out the full listing here (affiliate link).