Tim Flannery is a born entertainer.
It was true of his career as a baseball player with the San Diego Padres. Early on nicknamed “Flan,” he played as part of that franchise for over ten years. His big-hearted “at bats” and see-it-from-the-bleachers grin quickly turned him into a fan favorite. After retiring and (eventually) joining the San Francisco Giants’ coaching staff, Flannery earned a new reputation as the most exuberant, wildly animated, fun-to-watch third-base coach in the Major Leagues. In fact, it sometimes seemed that base-running Giants had an extra incentive to get to third, just so they could soak up a few seconds of Flannery’s unbridled energy and enthusiasm.
On TV, as a pre-and-post-game analyst for CSN Bay Area, he’s often as spontaneously hilarious as he is erudite and insightful.
And as a musician, he’s an absolute natural, possessed of an easygoing knack for connecting heart-to-heart with a crowd. In performance, he sings, plays guitar, tells stories and generally enjoys the hell out of every live show. Even on the phone, casually chatting from his home down in Southern California, Flannery is a blast to talk with.
“For 33 years, I never had a summer off,” he says, “and when I finally retired from coaching in 2014, that next summer I got to play at the High Sierra Music Festival. I played Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. I started whitewater rafting, and I was thinking, ‘Are you sh-----g me? This is what goes on when you’re not playing ball? Man! I’ve been missing out!’”
The reason for this conversation is Flannery’s upcoming appearance, with his longtime band The Lunatic Fringe, at Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre, on Sunday, Jan. 20. According to Flannery, the last time he performed at the Mystic was in June of 2017, when he joined Jackie Green for a concert benefitting The Blue Rose Foundation. The Petaluma show, part of a multi-city west coast tour of theaters, music venues and honkytonk bars, is all to raise money for Flannery’s Love Harder Project, a nonprofit he established with his wife, to support anti-bullying and anti-violence programs in schools and communities all over the US.
As Flannery explains it, the tour is all about supporting a worthy cause – including a few gigs in Redding, raising money for Butte County fire relief – while having a good time with his band, a hand-selected assortment of experienced players who spend the rest of their year gigging with some of the biggest names in music. It is, clearly, a dream come true, which is saying something, considering the same could be said for Flannery’s first career.
“I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that loves to sing,” says Flannery, proudly adding that his little brother sings opera in three languages, and his uncle, the legendary Pittsburgh Pirates player Hal Smith, was a singer-songwriter like Flannery. Born and raised in Kentucky, Flannery’s family moved to California in the ‘60s. While playing baseball at Anaheim High School, he fell in love with the songwriting of such folks as Bob Dylan and Jackson Brown. His own music is a gently braided tangle of bluegrass, country, Springsteen-tinged rock and good old Americana folk tunes, with lyrics that read like short stories scribbled onto a greasy diner napkin at a roadside truck stop.
PLANNING TO GO?
What: Tim Flannery and the Lunatic Fringe, in concert, as a benefit for Flannery’s Love Harder nonprofit.
When: Sunday, Jan. 20, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Mystic Theatre, 21 N. Petaluma Blvd.
Admission: Tickets $20-$23.