‘There’s only one role model who will never break your heart.’
By John Herndon, 110forChrist.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. — He’s been called “The Glue” but there’s little doubt God is the one who fit the pieces, then cemented them in Doug Flynn’s life.
There’s no other way to describe a journey that saw a multi-sport high school athlete with little sports future develop into a member of one of the greatest teams of any sport of any era, the 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds. He’s got two World Series rings and a Gold Glove.
That’s pretty good for a guy whose self-assessment is one of “no talent.”
I met up with Doug Flynn recently in his Central Bank office in downtown Lexington. The mementos from a solid 11-year Major League Baseball career adorn the walls while a bookcase is the home for numerous Christian publications. He still has that big smile that endeared Reds fans more than 40 years ago. Life is definitely good.
No one could have predicted such a journey when Flynn graduated from Bryan Station High School in 1969. “I had no clue,” he says. “Coming out of high school, I had played three sports (baseball, basketball and football), but I was just OK. If you came to watch a game, I was not the one who stuck out.”
Avid fans know his story. We’ll summarize in the next few paragraphs.
That summer, the hometown Kentucky Wildcats’ freshman basketball team — first-year college students were not eligible for the varsity in those days — had an unexpected opening when one of the recruits opted to accept an offer to join the Cleveland Indians organization. Kittens’ coach Joe Hall contacted Flynn about playing guard. “So I went and played basketball for my freshman year at UK,” Flynn remembers. “I was also on the baseball team but I didn’t get a chance to play much. The next year, I went to junior college.”
Getting his diamond fix with softball around Lexington and baseball in the semipro Bluegrass League, Flynn was persuaded to go to a Reds tryout camp. They asked him to come back, making the extraordinary jump from Somerset Community College to pro baseball.
Despite hitting .211, .258 and .253 in three minor league seasons, Flynn turned heads with 32 hits in Florida. “I tied a record with Gordy Coleman for most hits in spring training,” Flynn smiles. “Most guys don’t even get 30 at-bats in spring training. But Davey (Concepcion) and Joe (Morgan) and those guys would come to spring training to get in shape. They would come down and work their way into shape so that meant I got to play a little more.”
He heard about his good fortune from another Kentuckian, former Morehead State basketball and baseball great Steve Hamilton. Hamilton was on the coaching staff of the Detroit Tigers, who were playing the Reds in the last few days of spring training.
“Steve said, ‘Way to go, I hear you made the club.’” Flynn remembers. “I said, ‘How do you know?’ He said, ‘Sparky (Anderson, the Reds’ manager) told me.’ I said, ‘Well, he hasn’t told me.’ He said, ‘Well, he probably won’t for a while.’
“I was pretty fired up!”
He officially made it on April 9, 1975 as the Reds were hosting the Dodgers. According to BaseballReference.com, Doug came up as a pinch hitter for John Vukovich, facing Dodger reliever Mike Marshall, the reigning winner of the Cy Young Award.
Doug bunted into a 3-4 sacrifice, advancing Darrel Chaney, who came home on Concepcion’s pinch single.
The Reds roared from 5.5 games back on May 17 to finish 108-54, 20 games ahead of the second-place Dodgers. After sweeping the Pirates in the playoffs, the Reds needed all seven games to outlast the Red Sox in what many consider the greatest World Series ever.
The following year, the Reds won the West by 10 games, then swept both the Phillies in the playoffs and the Yankees in the World Series. To this day, the 1975-1976 Reds are considered one of the elite teams in baseball history.
But things began to change in 1977. Cincy had traded Tony Perez during the off-season, but were still within striking distance of the Dodgers on June 15. The Reds were in the process of beating the Phillies in extra innings, but the word was out that Doug Flynn was moving on.
Between innings, Pete Rose sat next to Flynn. In the course of the conversation, Rose told Flynn he was going to the New York Mets in a deal for Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. “I said, sarcastically, ‘Straight up?’ Pete looked at me and said, ‘Not hardly,’” Flynn says with a laugh.
Flynn says he later learned from Johnny Bench, with whom he has several charity events each year, that the game’s greatest catcher had suggested that Flynn be part of the deal. “He told me when they were trying to put the deal together, he told them to throw my name in there. He said, ‘You are not going to play here (behind Morgan, Concepcion and Rose). You go to New York, you have a chance to be an every day player. And that is how it worked out.”
Flynn would stay with the Mets through 1981, winning the Gold Glove in 1980. He would have time in Texas and Montreal before finishing his career with the Tigers, and Sparky Anderson, in 1985.
It was during his time with the Mets, however, that Flynn met his wife, Olga. “God has a great sense of humor. I wanted to marry a Playboy Bunny and a cheerleader. So my wife had worked as a cocktail waitress at the Playboy Club and was a cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles. We struggled and we were both independent. There was certainly no Bible study,” Doug says.
But in 1984, Olga told Doug she wanted to attend a Pro Athletes Outreach conference. He wasn’t thrilled at the idea, preferring to hang out with some friends. “She said, ‘Well, I have already paid, so we are going,’” Doug remembers.
Doug was a good guy, but he’s glad he made that trip to Tampa. He heard former Miami Dolphin Norm Evans speak and connected with Major League players like Frank Tanana, Jim Sundberg and Gary Carter. “There were all kinds of players and their spouses there. That’s where I realized my walk with Christ was more than just calling yourself a Christian,” Doug says. “It was there I realized it was about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Today, Doug looks at the intense media coverage but realizes players honoring God will receive minimal coverage from the major media outlets. “It’s not newsworthy is what I was told,” he says. “It’s not sexy. Papers aren’t going to cover about Christian faith. Most of the guys in the media don’t believe it anyway, so they are not going to cover it. But there are guys going into high schools and colleges all the time. There are guys here in Lexington part of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) going around and speaking all the time, but it’s not newsworthy.”
Flynn also notes that some players simply don’t want the publicity about their faith. But Flynn has embraced his platform, using it as a witness for Christ.
“I tell people to not look at athletes as role models,” he says. “They will break your heart. There is only one role model who will never break your heart.”
Today, Doug Flynn enjoys life as a banker but some of his co-workers would not know he was a member of the Big Red Machine if not for some of his photos on the wall. It’s not the most important thing in his life.
“When people see me, I hope I don’t have to tell them that I am a Christian,” he says. “I want them to see something different. I want them to ask about it. A lot of them don’t care and that’s OK. But for someone like me to go as far as I did in baseball with a lack of talent, basically, God had to be doing that to give me this platform.”
Flynn has worked with Champions Against Drugs in the past and raises money, with Bench, for the Children’s Charity Golf Tournament in Lexington. He’s also active with USA Cares, an organization assisting military families. He’s also host of Reds Weekly with fellow Lexington native Jeff Piecoro and will work several Reds television broadcasts this year. In addition, Flynn hosts “Kentucky Life” on Kentucky Educational Television and hosts a weekly radio show devoted to fishing.
It’s all because an OK high school athlete made an impression at a Reds tryout camp. It blossomed into a big league career and a championship platform for Christ.
“That’s what it took to get a platform for me and draw me closer to where the Lord wants me to go,” Doug says. “Everybody has a platform.”
But what about being “The Glue?”
“You want to hear the story?” Flynn laughs. “The Reds had the ‘Great Eight (from the 1975 and 1976 teams)’ back when the dedicated one of the statues outside (Great American Ball Park). I was introducing the players and said they were one of the greatest teams of all time but also one of the most underrated.
“I said, ‘Think about it. In 1970, they went to the World Series and lost to the Orioles. Then in 1972, they went back to the World Series and lost to the A’s. In 1973 and ‘74, they didn’t make it back.
“But then in 1975, a kid from Kentucky joined the team and they won the World Series. In 1976, they won the World Series. Then in 1977, that kid from Kentucky gets traded to the Mets and you never hear from them again.”
“Then someone in the crowd yelled out, ‘The Glue!’ So we had some fun with it. I have made up some shirts about it and donated the proceeds to military causes.”
The Glue of one of the greatest teams ever. Of course, it’s in fun.
But in Doug Flynn’s life, there’s little doubt God brought the pieces together and the bond is still there today.
Doug Flynn’s life as a singer
Doug Flynn is a huge fan of The Oak Ridge Boys and got a chance to travel with the country and gospel music Hall of Famers in 1981. “When (Major League players) went on strike in 1981, I rode with the Oaks about a week. Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban are big baseball fans.
“One night they got me up on stage and said, ‘What do you want to sing?’ I said I knew most of their songs.
“They said, ‘You are not going to ruin our songs!’ So they got the band to play ‘Hey Good Lookin.’’
“Every night after the show, we would sit up until four or five in the morning just talking baseball.”
Flynn remains close friends with The Oaks and is often at their shows near Lexington.