Kentucky Life host and Lexington native Doug Flynn shares the story of his career in baseball.
Most Kentuckians remember Kentucky Life host Doug Flynn from his career in baseball: He played in the majors from 1975-85 and was on the 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds teams that won the World Series. He reminisced about his career in an interview at Castlewood Park in Lexington, where he got started in the sport as a boy.
The native of Lexington can’t remember a time when he didn’t play baseball. He played for the Lexington Colts. “The year that I was 8 years old was the last year that an 8-year-old could play Little League ball,” he said.
At Bryan Station High School, he played baseball and basketball, and was quarterback for the football team. From there, he went on to the University of Kentucky.
“Here’s the biggest mystery of all: How in the world did Doug Flynn get no scholarship offers and then start playing basketball for the University of Kentucky?” Flynn asked.
Flynn said UK had an opening late in the year and asked him to be a point guard on the basketball team, with the idea that if basketball didn’t work out, UK would give him a baseball scholarship. “I played every game as a starting guard,” he recalled.
He didn’t play a lot on the baseball team, however. When the year ended, UK did not offer him a scholarship, so he went to junior college in Somerset.
“Friends woke me up one morning and said we’re all going to try out for the Cincinnati Reds,” he recalled.
So began his baseball career. His first contract was for $2,500 in the Minor Leagues. The Reds signed him as an amateur free agent in 1971 and debuted with the Reds in 1975.
“I knew my place. I was a utility player. I wasn’t going to start,” he said. “But I was going to be ready to fill in every game if necessary,” he said.
The Reds, he said, have always treated him well. “As a matter of fact I tease them. I say, you know, you all were really good in ‘70 and you got beat by Baltimore. You all were really good in ’72 but you got beat by Oakland. You were really good in ‘73 but the Mets beat you. You didn’t even get out of the league. In ‘74 you disappeared.
“I got here in ‘75, we won. I was here in ‘76, we won. You traded me in ‘77 and you didn’t win again. I think we see right now who the glue in the big Red Machine was.”
He said the trades made by the Reds in the late ‘70s broke up the team chemistry. Flynn went on to play for the Mets, winning the Gold Glove award as a second baseman in 1980. Of New York, he said, “It’s the place to play. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere. I went from five reporters (interviewing me) in the clubhouse to 50.”
A new general manager cleaned house and traded Flynn along with several others. After four months in Texas came a stint in Montreal. “I ended up my career at Detroit,” he said.
Looking back, Flynn said he feels fortunate that he played Major League Baseball for 10 years, noting that he was cut from his college baseball team and never made all-city in any sport he played in his youth. “You are looking at a blessed man,” he said. “If anybody had told me that all that would happen and what has happened since, I’d say you’re crazy.”
Flynn returned to baseball in a new role in 1987, when the Reds asked him to come to a baseball fantasy camp. “And I’ve been doing them ever since.”
He also does broadcasting for 15-20 Reds games each year. “I love the fact that it keeps me in the game, keeps me around it,” he said.
Baseball has given him a platform to help others, he said. Flynn is involved with numerous civic and charitable organizations, including Hope for the Warriors and the American Association for the Prevention of Substance Abuse in Athletics.
“I just think when you’re given an opportunity that you can use to help other people then you need to take advantage of it. That’s what baseball’s done for me. It’s given me that platform, so that I can share it and hopefully help others as they’re going along the way.”
This video is part of Kentucky Life episode #2116 which originally aired on May 7, 2016. View the full episode here.