How Tim Flannery, the Giants Coach, Got Back to Writing Songs

Night had fallen, spirits had been shifting and the songwriting baseball coach was rounding third base and headed for dwelling. Twice in the autumn of 2020, docs had suggested a gravely unwell Tim Flannery to say goodbye to his household. Both occasions, he declined to give up.

The proper arm that despatched dwelling so many San Francisco base runners throughout the Giants’ three World Series titles from 2010 to 2014 waved away a ultimate coda.

The highway again from the brink was as unlikely as the man himself. A second baseman turned widespread coach, Flannery was at all times one thing extra. A musician who carried a guitar with him on the highway, and a surfer who posed with a board on one in all his buying and selling playing cards, he couldn’t assist however stand out in the strait-laced world of Major League Baseball.

Having transitioned absolutely into philanthropy and songwriting in his baseball retirement — his basis has raised lots of of 1000’s of {dollars} for anti-bullying causes — he had extra individuals to assist and extra tales to inform. So giving in to a life-threatening staph an infection was not an possibility.

Fate and Flannery ultimately reached a standstill throughout his harrowing, three-month battle with the an infection, however docs nonetheless warned him that he may by no means stroll once more. He fell into sepsis and required two again surgical procedures to clear away abscesses and broken tissue. He went dwelling with a tube that despatched antibiotics streaming into his coronary heart. That was the straightforward half as a result of his spouse of 42 years, Donna, administered these doses.

Eventually, walker in hand, together with his little granddaughter Jade driving shotgun on the crossbar, he lower a deal: 25 occasions up the driveway, slowly, 25 occasions again, painfully, and Jade could be rewarded with an ice cream sandwich.

On significantly productive days, she’d rating two.

“I’ve definitely changed my life,” Flannery, 65, stated on a current afternoon at a neighborhood espresso store close to the seaside, a well-known twinkle — life — again in his eyes. He had rehearsed for 2 hours earlier that day. Soon, he would nail down particulars for the subsequent present together with his band, the Lunatic Fringe.

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

His keep in the hospital was harrowing. “Vicious,” he stated of time spent tied down so he didn’t hurt himself or others. The hospital was two miles from his dwelling, however every look out his window introduced extra distortion. Not all his visions had been terrible. His good friend Bob Weir, a founding member of the Grateful Dead, appeared by apparition. So did one other good friend, Jimmy Buffett.

The that means of these explicit visitations would come into focus later, convincing Flannery that they had been no coincidence.

Through greater than 4 a long time of baseball and music, first in San Diego after which in San Francisco, Flannery grew right into a beloved participant, coach and troubadour — a character — due to an endearing knack for leaving items of himself with whomever he met.

“Authentic,” stated Flannery’s bandmate and producer, Jeff Berkley. “He is exactly who you think he is. He’s not trying to put on any airs. He’s not trying to be from Kentucky; he is from Kentucky. Until he stopped drinking, man, he carried moonshine around with him wherever he went. He’s a total hillbilly. He wears that term proudly. He’s probably the first woke hillbilly.”

Because Flannery felt some baseball individuals considered his guitar suspiciously throughout his years in San Diego, he initially supposed to hold that a part of his life quiet when he agreed to coach for Bruce Bochy in San Francisco.

“I was going to come coach third and not let anybody in,” Flannery stated. “I thought, ‘No one’s going to tear my heart.’”

But in 2011, his music got here to the forefront when he based the Love Harder Project in response to the horrific beating of Bryan Stow, a Giants fan who was attacked in the Dodger Stadium car parking zone on opening day in 2011. With the basis, which has a mission of anti-bullying and anti-violence, Flannery has helped elevate round $100,000, largely by means of exhibits with the Lunatic Fringe, to offset the Stow household’s medical prices.

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

But he might write, and play, and sing.

Stow, now 54, sustained a severe mind damage in the assault and immediately lives at dwelling in the Santa Cruz space together with his mother and father. He is taking reminiscence and mobility programs at a area people faculty and discovered on Father’s Day that he was going to be a grandfather.

“Flan was one of the first to come to the forefront and help Bryan out. It was just amazing,” stated Ann Stow, Bryan’s mom. “And he’s been that way throughout Bryan’s journey. Flan and Donna are such an important part of our family.”

In all, the Love Harder Project has raised round $360,000 in Flannery’s ongoing battle in opposition to bullies and violence.

Despite what some suggested early in his profession, Flannery was by no means going to select baseball over music.

“Like having to choose between air and water,” he stated. “I’ve got to have both.”

Though Flannery largely was raised in Anaheim, Calif., his household got here from the hills of Kentucky. His uncle, Hal Smith, was a catcher who smashed a three-run homer for Pittsburgh in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Had the Pirates’ bullpen held the 9-7 lead, Smith would have been a hero. Instead, the Yankees tied issues up and Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski received the sport and earned immortality.

Smith, who performed 10 seasons, recurrently carried a Gibson J35 guitar with him on the highway. When Flannery signed professionally at 19, he adopted swimsuit.

Flannery’s first supervisor, Roger Craig, informed him to give attention to baseball quite than taking part in the guitar, however the instrument remained his fixed companion. Kids had been born — Daniel now’s 37; Ginny, the mom of Tim’s three grandchildren, is 35; Kelly is 32 — and the guitar was there for all of it.

“If it was a crazy day, having that guitar mellowed him out,” Donna Flannery stated.

Flannery at all times stood out from his baseball friends. His 1988 Fleer baseball card featured him holding a surfboard.Credit…Fleer

Another uncle, George, satisfied Flannery that taking part in music wasn’t sufficient and that he wanted to file his songs to inform the tales of his household’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 carried out on that recording.

On his musical journey, Flannery has opened for Buffett and Emmylou Harris. The Grateful Dead’s Weir entered his life throughout the advantages for Stow, and Walker, the outlaw nation legend and longtime hero of Flannery’s who wrote “Mr. Bojangles,” befriended him throughout the San Francisco years as effectively.

“The great thing about the Bay Area, one of the greatest blessings, is I found a place where they understand you can be an artist and still coach third,” Flannery stated.

When the pandemic struck and the world closed, Flannery retreated to a getaway he calls his “treehouse” in the mountains north of Santa Barbara.

At his cabin, there isn’t a electrical energy, no telephone service and the water comes straight from a effectively. The staph an infection that just about killed him began, he believes, as he was constructing cages to shield the potatoes, corn, tomatoes, okra, spinach and various different greens he crops there.

“You’ve got to put everything in cages, because there’s animals,” stated Flannery, who retired from teaching after the 2014 World Series however stayed in baseball, doing tv evaluation, by means of 2019. “I’ve never done any of that stuff because I never had summers off. Somehow, I got cut, or the soil got in.”

As an previous ballplayer, when the again ache attacked, he figured he would simply play by means of it.

“I took four Advil, drank a huge cocktail and usually I’d polish that off with a bottle of wine to kill the pain,” he stated of his nightly routine.

But one afternoon he fell asleep, arduous, on the deck, waking up solely as a result of it was meal time for his canine, Buddy. Stubborn as his grasp, Buddy nudged and licked Flannery till he got here to. If not for that, Flannery stated, he thinks he would have died proper there. Instead, the two in some way drove to his San Diego-area dwelling, the place Tim collapsed and was taken away by paramedics.

As he was recovering in early 2021, Susan Walker phoned someday. Her husband, Jerry Jeff, had died from cancer in October, and she or he invited Flannery to carry out at a celebration of life in Luckenbach, Texas, that June. At the time, he couldn’t even sit up to play his guitar, however he was decided to make it.

The memorial live performance was Flannery’s first gig after regaining his well being, and each of the males Flannery felt had visited him in the hospital, in spirit solely, performed a component. Weir, who was scheduled to be in Luckenbach earlier than journey points stored him away, phoned simply earlier than Flannery went onstage. And Buffett, who died this month, was there in particular person.

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

The previous coach performed, at Susan’s request, a Walker unique entitled “Last Song” and a tribute Flannery wrote for his good friend, “Last of the Old Dogs.”

“I think I kind of stunned people,” Flannery stated. “I don’t know how it happened, and it was all beyond myself. When I came off, the whole crew had tears in their eyes.”

Donna Flannery stated she finds her husband to be “a kinder person these days, nicer to everybody.”

As one in all the traces in a track of his goes, kindness lives on the different aspect.

And so the man who was informed to go away his guitar at dwelling and give attention to baseball has as an alternative hung up his spikes. And he’ll hold attempting to make the world just a bit bit higher.

“When I play, I pray before each show that the great translator, the holy spirit, shows up and changes everything I say and turns it into whatever people need and stick it in their hearts,” Flannery stated. “And a couple of days later, when you start to hear back from people, yeah, there’s a reason why I’m playing.”

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