Don Flynn, 83, of Abington, a high school and college teacher and coach, star baseball player, marathon runner, triathlete, and Air Force veteran, died Sunday, April 10, of congestive heart failure at Holy Redeemer Hospital hospice in Meadowbrook.
A lifelong learner, Dr. Flynn earned a doctoral degree in English and master’s degrees in psychology and English from Temple University. A longtime educator, he taught high school math and English in Philadelphia, Willingboro, and Cheltenham, and later instructed college students in English, writing, communications, and speech at four local universities.
He was a star baseball player at North Catholic High School, earned a baseball scholarship to Temple, and went on to play six seasons in the minor leagues for teams affiliated with the New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, and Oakland Athletics. From 1961 through 1966, he played on eight clubs in four minor leagues in California, North Carolina, New York, Georgia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
A 6-foot-3, 210-pound righthanded pitcher, he saw action in 214 minor-league games and ended his career with a 42-34 pitching record. He told the Daily News in 2008 that his favorite baseball experience was spending several spring trainings with Pete Rose and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds.
“The greatest thrill about pro ball was all the great friendships you make,” he said.
At Temple, Dr. Flynn played baseball under legendary coaches Ernie Casale and Skip Wilson, went a combined 16-6 as the team’s ace in 1959 and 1960, and was inducted into the Temple sports hall of fame in 1995. “Temple mourns [the] passing of baseball great Don Flynn,” the university said in an online tribute.
He went on to be Wilson’s assistant coach from 1973 to 1990 and then head coach at Philadelphia University, now Thomas Jefferson University, from 1991 until his retirement in 2004. Jefferson has named an annual winner of the Dr. Don Flynn award for athletic success, campus participation, and academic achievement since 2004.
When Wilson retired as coach in 2005, he told the Temple News: “Whenever I had Flynn as the pitching coach, we won, and we won big.” Dr. Flynn’s son, Michael, called his father “the wisest Temple Owl I’ve ever met.”
Dr. Flynn also coached baseball at John F. Kennedy High School in Willingboro and Cheltenham High School. He pitched for teams in local amateur leagues, and raced in many Broad Street Run, marathons, half marathons, and triathlons into his 70s.
In 2001, he suffered a heart attack during a triathlon in New Jersey. “Fortunately, there was a police officer near me,” he told the Daily News in 2008. “He gave me CPR and defibbed me.”
Born Jan. 11, 1939, in Philadelphia, Dr. Flynn grew up in Oxford Circle and graduated from North Catholic in 1956. A natural athlete disciplined in his exercise and training routines, he played hours of baseball as a boy, and his mother supplied countless homemade balls by winding string around other small round objects.
He went into the Air Force reserves in the early 1960s, taught in Philadelphia high schools for six years, at Kennedy in New Jersey for two years, and at Cheltenham for 28 years. He retired from teaching high school in 1996 but picked up classes at Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science, now Jefferson, and La Salle, Gwynedd Mercy, and Immaculata Universities.
He met Beth Weiser Winstead in 1965 while he was playing baseball for the York White Roses, a minor-league team based about 100 miles west of Philadelphia. They married in 1967, lived in Northeast Philadelphia and Abington, and had daughter Beth and son Michael.
Dr. Flynn enjoyed poetry and nature, read Jack London novels, and was known for his kindness to animals. He shared his love of athletics with his family and helped them find their own competitive niches. “I owe my dad big time,” said his daughter.
His wife said: “He was sensible, disciplined, loving, and humble.”
In addition to his wife and children, Dr. Flynn is survived by a granddaughter, brother, and other relatives.
Family visitation is to be held at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, 1500 Marian Rd., Abington, Pa. 19001. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m., and a luncheon is to follow at Maggio’s Restaurant, Bar & Ballroom, 400 Second Street Pike, Southampton, Pa. 18966.
Donations in his name may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105, and the Montgomery County SPCA, 19 E. Ridge Pike, P.O. Box 222, Conshohocken, Pa 19428.