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Night had fallen, tempers were stirring, and the songwriting baseball coach rounded third base and headed home. In the fall of 2020, doctors twice advised the seriously ill Tim Flannery to say goodbye to his family. On both occasions he refused to give up.

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The right arm that sent home so many San Francisco baserunners during the Giants’ three World Series titles from 2010 to 2014 said goodbye to a final coda.

The path back from the abyss was as improbable as the man himself. Flannery, a second baseman turned popular coach, was always something more. A musician who carried a guitar with him on the road and a surfer who posed with a board on one of his trading cards, he couldn’t help but stand out in the strict world of Major League Baseball.

Having fully transitioned into philanthropy and songwriting during his retirement from baseball (his foundation has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for anti-bullying causes), he had more people to help and more stories to tell. Therefore, giving in to a life-threatening staph infection was not an option.

Fate and Flannery finally reached a stalemate during her harrowing three-month battle with the infection, but doctors still warned her that she might never walk again. He fell into sepsis and required two back surgeries to remove abscesses and damaged tissue. He returned home with a tube sending antibiotics to his heart. That was the easy part because his wife of 42 years, Donna, administered those doses.

Finally, walker in hand, with her young granddaughter Jade leaning on the crossbar, she struck a deal: 25 times down the driveway, slowly, 25 times back, painfully, and Jade would be rewarded with an ice cream sandwich.

On particularly productive days, I would get two.

“I’ve definitely changed my life,” Flannery, 65, said one recent afternoon at a neighborhood coffee shop near the beach, with a familiar glow: life – again in his eyes. She had rehearsed for two hours earlier that day. Soon, he would finalize the details for the next show with his band, Lunatic Fringe.

“I’ve seen moments and things much more clearly,” he continued. “And you try to create good thoughts and you try to remember this moment right here. Because if I ever go back to that situation, I want to try to bring back as many good memories and good hallucinations as I can.”

His stay in the hospital was heartbreaking. “Vicious,” he said of the time he spent tied up so as not to hurt himself or others. The hospital was two miles from his house, but every look out the window caused more distortion. Not all the visions of him were horrible. His friend Bob Weir, a founding member of the Grateful Dead, made an appearance. Another friend, Jimmy Buffett, did the same.

The significance of those particular visits would later become clear, convincing Flannery that they were no coincidence.

Over more than four decades of baseball and music, first in San Diego and then in San Francisco, Flannery became a beloved player, coach and troubadour: a character – due to an endearing ability to leave pieces of himself with whoever he met.

“Authentic,” said producer and Flannery’s bandmate Jeff Berkley. “He is exactly who you think he is. He’s not trying to put on airs. He’s not trying to be from Kentucky; He is from Kentucky. Until he stopped drinking, man, he carried moonshine everywhere. He’s a complete redneck. He wears that term with pride. He is probably the first peasant who woke up.”

Because Flannery felt that some people in baseball viewed his guitar with suspicion during his years in San Diego, he initially intended to keep that part of his life a secret when he agreed to coach Bruce Bochy in San Francisco.

“I was going to be the third coach and not let anyone in,” Flannery said. “I thought, ‘No one is going to break my heart.’”

But in 2011, his music came to the fore when he founded the Love Harder Project in response to the horrific beating suffered by Bryan Stow, a Giants fan who was attacked in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on Opening Day 2011. With the foundation, which has a mission to fight bullying and violence, Flannery has helped raise around $100,000, primarily through shows with Lunatic Fringe, to offset the Stow family’s medical costs.

“Hey, I hit nine home runs in the ’80s,” Flannery said. “I can’t just write a check.”

But he knew how to write, play and sing.

Stow, now 54, suffered a serious brain injury in the attack and today lives at home in the Santa Cruz area with his parents. He is taking memory and mobility courses at a local community college and on Father’s Day he found out that he was going to be a grandfather.

“Flan was one of the first to come forward and help Bryan. It was just amazing,” said Ann Stow, Bryan’s mother. “And it’s been that way throughout Bryan’s entire journey. “Flan and Donna are a very important part of our family.”

In total, the Love Harder Project has raised about $360,000 in Flannery’s ongoing battle against bullies and violence.

Despite what some advised early in his career, Flannery was never going to choose baseball over music.

“Like having to choose between air and water,” he said. “I have to have both.”

Although Flannery was raised primarily in Anaheim, California, his family came from the hills of Kentucky. His uncle, Hal Smith, was a catcher who hit a three-run home run for Pittsburgh in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. If the Pirates bullpen had held a 9-7 lead, Smith would have been a hero. Instead, the Yankees tied things up and Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski won the game and earned immortality.

Smith, who played 10 seasons, regularly carried a Gibson J35 guitar with him when he traveled. When Flannery signed professionally at age 19, he did the same.

Flannery’s first manager, Roger Craig, told him to concentrate on baseball rather than playing guitar, but the instrument remained his constant companion. Children were born: Daniel is now 37 years old; Ginny, the mother of Tim’s three grandchildren, is 35 years old; Kelly is 32 years old and the guitar has been there all that time.

“If it was a crazy day, having that guitar calmed it down,” Donna Flannery said.

Flannery always stood out among his baseball peers. Fleer’s 1988 baseball card showed him holding a surfboard.Credit…Given

Another uncle, George, convinced Flannery that playing music was not enough and that he needed to record his songs to tell the stories of his family’s life. Among them is “Pieces of the Past,” a tribute to Flannery’s preacher father, Ragon, who was dying of Alzheimer’s. Jackson Browne and Bruce Hornsby performed on that recording.

On his musical journey, Flannery has opened for Buffett and Emmylou Harris. The Grateful Dead’s Weir came into his life during benefits for Stow and Walker, the outlaw country legend and Flannery’s longtime hero who wrote “Mr. Bojangles,” also befriended him during the San Francisco years.

“The best thing about the Bay Area, one of the biggest blessings, is that I found a place where they understand that you can be an artist and still train third,” Flannery said.

When the pandemic hit and the world shut down, Flannery retreated to a place he calls his “treehouse” in the mountains north of Santa Barbara.

In their cabin there is no electricity or telephone service and the water comes directly from a well. He believes the staph infection that nearly killed him began while he was building cages to protect the potatoes, corn, tomatoes, okra, spinach and a variety of other vegetables he plants there.

“You have to put everything in cages, because there are animals,” said Flannery, who retired from coaching after the 2014 World Series but remained in baseball, doing television analysis, until 2019. “I’ve never done any of that. because I never had free summers. Somehow I cut myself or got dirt in.”

As an old baseball player, when back pain struck, he thought he would just play through it.

“I took four Advil, drank a huge cocktail and usually washed it down with a bottle of wine to relieve the pain,” he said of his nightly regimen.

But one afternoon he fell fast asleep on the deck and woke up only because it was dinner time for his dog, Buddy. Stubborn as his teacher, Buddy pushed and licked Flannery until he came to. If it weren’t for that, Flannery said, he believes he would have died right there. Instead, the two somehow drove to his home in the San Diego area, where Tim collapsed and was taken away by paramedics.

While recovering in early 2021, Susan Walker called one day. Her husband, Jerry Jeff, had died of cancer in October and she invited Flannery to perform at a celebration of life in Luckenbach, Texas, in June of that year. At that time, he couldn’t even sit down to play the guitar, but he was determined to make it happen.

The memorial concert was Flannery’s first concert after regaining his health, and the two men who Flannery felt had visited him in the hospital, only in spirit, played a role. Weir, who was scheduled to be in Luckenbach before travel issues kept him away, called just before Flannery took the stage. And Buffett, who died this month, was there in person.

“Hey, you look like Tim Flannery, only older,” Buffett joked.

The old trainer played, at Susan’s request, an original song by Walker titled “Last Song” and a tribute Flannery wrote for his friend, “Last of the Old Dogs.”

“I think I kind of surprised people,” Flannery said. “I don’t know how it happened and everything was out of my reach. When I came out, the whole team had tears in their eyes.”

Donna Flannery said she considers her husband “a kinder person today, kinder to everyone.”

As one of the verses in one of his songs says, goodness lives on the other side.

And so the man who was told to leave his guitar at home and focus on baseball instead hung up his nails. And he will continue trying to make the world a little better.

“When I play, I pray before every show that the great translator, the holy spirit, will appear and change everything I say and turn it into what people need and keep it in their hearts,” Flannery said. “And a couple of days later, when you start hearing from people, yeah, there’s a reason I’m playing.”

#Giants #Coach #Tim #Flannery #Writing #Songs

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