Thursday, September 7, 2017

RIP, Stick - Yankee Architect, Cub Skipper

Sadly, word is trickling out that former Major League Baseball player/scout/manager/general manager Gene Michael has passed away at the age of 79, after suffering a heart attack.  Rumor has it that Gene had underwent a procedure on his heart earlier this year; however, that news has been kept private.

"Stick" (so nicknamed due to his slender frame) might be best remembered as the architect behind the Yankees 1990's dynasty.  Under his watch as the general manager, starting in 1990, the Yanks drafted/signed and developed Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettite, sowing the seeds of upcoming dominance.  Hmmm... sounds similar to the construction of another blossoming dynasty...

Additionally, seven of Michael's ten years as a middle infielder were spent with the New York ballclub and, after his retirement, Gene worked up and down the Yanks' chain almost entirely uninterrupted through the mod-2000's.  Needless to say, he was a true, blue Yankee, through and through.  However, you should note that I wrote that Mr. Michael worked with the Bronx Bombers ALMOST entirely uninterrupted.  That's because he took a two year "sabbatical" to grab the reigns of a club with a much different reputation for success - the Chicago Cubs.

Following the sacking of manager Jim Frey, midway through the 1986 season, the Tribune Company sought out the Yankee mastermind to skipper their fledgling club.  Following the surprise success of the Dallas Green-orchestrated rebuild in 1984, the team had nosedived since, largely due to injuries and the decline of several key veterans.

The club was decidedly mediocre under Michael's command, posting a 46-56 record under his tutelage during that partial '86 term and a 68-68 mark during his unfinished stint in the following season.  That's right - Gene never even got a full season to prove his worth as a manager in Chicago.  After the team failed to take a step forward under his watch, ownership again decided to make a change, replacing Gene with longtime Cubs coach, Don Zimmer.

Zim would again see the team through a brief, shooting star-like resurgence (The Boys of Zimmer of 1989), before once again plummeting back to earth.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Though his brief "vacation" in the Windy City was not too successful, his time spent in the Big Apple speaks for itself.  That resume includes a postseason birth as manager in 1981, his scouting reports as a coach which Reggie Jackson credited with helping smack his legendary October homers, the previously mentioned success in drafting and development as a GM, and his unprecedented success in pulling the hidden ball trick off as a player (an astounding five times!), among many other accomplishments. 

Again, Gene Michael was as much a Yankee as Ron Santo was a Cub.  So, I guess if Gene Michael is to the Yankees as Ron Santo is to the Cubs, I suppose that makes Michael's brief foray to the North Side of Chicago similar to Santo's short trip to the South Side of Chicago.... At any rate, RIP Gene - the imprint you left on the game of baseball is significant.

While the rest of the world might remember Gene Michael as a Yankee (deservedly so), I'll always remember him as a short-term Cubbie, as well (thanks, in no small part, to the vast amounts of 1987 Topps cards which populate this planet).  The wood-grain bordered beauty which tops this post will forever keep his memory alive in the managers section of my CATRC border.


  1. Great video! I really don't know much about "Stick" but seems he was a great guy.

  2. My first memory of Michael was his 1981 Donruss card. I can still picture that card in my head right now.