Gene Michael

Eugene Richard Michael (June 2, 1938 – September 7, 2017), known as Stick, was an American professional baseball player, coach, scout, manager and team executive. He played in Major League Baseball as a shortstop from 1966 to 1975, most prominently as a member of the New York Yankees where he anchored the infield for seven seasons in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Detroit Tigers. He was a light hitter but also a quick and smooth defensive player.

Gene Michael
Michael in 2014
Shortstop / Manager
Born: (1938-06-02)June 2, 1938
Kent, Ohio, U.S.
Died: September 7, 2017(2017-09-07) (aged 79)
Oldsmar, Florida, U.S.
Batted: Switch
Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 15, 1966, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
September 9, 1975, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.229
Home runs15
Runs batted in226
Managerial record206–200
Winning %.507
As player

As manager

As general manager

Career highlights and awards

After his playing career, Michael managed the Yankees and Chicago Cubs, and served as the Yankees' general manager. As a baseball executive, Michael is credited with rebuilding the Yankees team that became a dynasty in the late 1990s.[1]

Early life and education

Michael was born on June 2, 1938 in Kent, Ohio.[1] After graduating from Akron East High School in Akron, Ohio, he went to Kent State University where he played college baseball and college basketball for the Kent State Golden Flashes.[2]

He spent one season (1966-67) playing professional basketball for the Columbus Comets of the North American Basketball League.

Playing career

After being signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959,[3] Michael made his major league debut with the Pirates in 1966.[4] As a player, Michael earned the nickname "Stick" due to his slender frame.[5]

The following year, the Pirates traded Michael to the Los Angeles Dodgers with Bob Bailey for Maury Wills.[6] He spent one season in Los Angeles, and was then purchased by the New York Yankees.[7] He played for the Yankees from 1968 until 1974. The Yankees released Michael before the 1975 season,[8] after which he signed with the Detroit Tigers.[9] Michael then signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1976, though did not play in a single game with Boston, having been released in May without using him once.[10] He retired with a .229 batting average, 15 home runs, and 226 runs batted in in 973 games played.[11][12] Michael was a master of the hidden ball trick, having pulled it off five times in his career.[13]

Post-playing career

Weeks after his release from Boston, Michael became a coach with the Yankees.[10] Reggie Jackson credited Michael's scouting reports for helping him hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.[14] He served as manager of the Yankees Triple-A team in 1979, and as general manager of the Yankees in 1980.[15] In 1981, Michael became the Yankees' manager. He had managed well in Triple-A, but veteran Yankees thought he was selected because he would be more likely to follow Yankee owner George Steinbrenner's orders than predecessor Dick Howser.[16] At one point in the 1981 season, annoyed by Steinbrenner's constant interference, he challenged the Yankees owner to fire him.[1] He was fired in September.[17][18] He was hired again in 1982. However, he was fired in August after publicly criticizing Steinbrenner's interference.[19][20] As a manager, he and his coaches would keep extensive data in notebooks, which they would study to help make decisions.[21] Michael finished with a record of 92 wins and 76 losses over both stints as Yankees manager.[22] Michael returned to the Yankees front office in 1983, and again served as a coach starting in 1984.[23] He next managed the Chicago Cubs in 1986 and 1987.[24] His managerial record with the Chicago Cubs was 114 wins and 124 losses.[22]

Michael in 1981

In 1990, Michael was again hired, this time as general manager of the Yankees.[25] At a time when Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball operations by Commissioner Fay Vincent, Michael took advantage of his newfound managerial flexibility by rebuilding the Yankees farm system, in developing young talent rather than trading it away, as they had done in the 1980s with little success.[1] During Michael's tenure as general manager, the Yankees drafted or signed such notable players as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada (collectively known as the Core Four), and others. Further, he traded for Paul O'Neill.[26] Michael also demonstrated patience with Bernie Williams, whom Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had wanted to trade when he struggled early in his career.[27]

This foundation paid off with Yankees championships in 1996, and from 19982000. However Michael was fired in 1995, before the Yankees dynasty began to win World Series, as a result of fallouts from the 1994 strike, which ended the Yankees chance of having the best record in the American League that year.[28] It was the second time the Yankees fired Michael as a result of a strike; in 1981, he was fired as manager as a result of the team slumping after the 1981 strike.[29][30]

From 1996 until 2002, Michael served as vice-president of major league scouting for the Yankees. In 2002, the Boston Red Sox tried to talk to Michael about their general manager position, but were not given permission by the Yankees.[31][32] In 2003, Michael was promoted to vice-president and senior advisor.[33] He held that position until his death.

During his time as Vice President, Michael was a regular attendee at the annual Old Timers Day festivities, where he served as the manager for both the Bombers and the Clippers teams in the exhibition game.

Managerial record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
GamesWonLostWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
NYY1981 563422.6071st in AL East
NYY1982 864442.512fired
NYY total1689276.54800
CHC1986 1024656.4515th in NL East
CHC1987 1366868.500resigned
CHC total238114124.47900

Personal life

During his tenure with the Yankees, Michael had been a resident of Norwood, New Jersey, and had four children. He married twice, his first marriage to Rae Reuter, ending in divorce.[1]

Michael died due to a heart attack on September 7, 2017, in Oldsmar, Florida, at age 79. Survivors at the time of his death include his second wife and four children.[11][34] To honor Michael, the Yankees wore black armbands on their uniforms for the remainder of the 2017 season.[12]


  1. Schudel, Matt (July 6, 2014) "General manager built New York Yankees dynasty that won 4 World Series”, The Washington Post, page B5 Retrieved September 10, 2017
  2. Lubinger, Bill (June 14, 2012). "Former Kent State baseball greats caught up in pride of trip to College World Series 2012". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  3. Pepe, Phil (April 2014). Core Four: The Heart and Soul of the Yankees Dynasty – Phil Pepe – Google Books. ISBN 9781623688707. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  4. "1966 Pittsburgh Pirates Statistics". January 1, 1970. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  5. "Red Smith Straight as a Stick". September 7, 1981. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  6. "Dodgers trade Maury Wills to Pittsburgh". December 2, 1966. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  7. "1967 Los Angeles Dodgers Trades and Transactions". Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  8. "1974 New York Yankees Trades and Transactions". Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  9. "1975 Detroit Tigers Trades and Transactions". Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  10. Ferretti, Fred (August 19, 1979). "Down On The Farm With The Yankees' Gene Michael". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  11. Goldstein, Richard (September 7, 2017). "Gene Michael, Whose Yankee Teams Won 4 World Series, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  12. "Yankees mourn the passing of Gene 'Stick' Michael". YES Network. September 7, 2017. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  13. foxsports (March 10, 2015). "The lost art of the ol' Hidden Ball Trick". FOX Sports. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  14. Kernan, Kevin (November 4, 2009). "Give Chase his props – but Reggie's still tops". Retrieved June 29, 2011.
  15. Gross, Jane (February 13, 1981). "Yanks And Michael Start Fresh". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  16. John and Valenti, pp. 208-09
  17. Gross, Jane (September 7, 1981). "Steinbrenner Dismisses Michael, Names Lemon As Yank Manager". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  18. Berkow, Ira (October 19, 1981). "Gene Michael Sits One Out". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  19. Chass, Murray (August 4, 1982). "Yanks Dismiss Michael After Losing Doubleheader". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  20. John and Valenti, p. 236
  21. John and Valenti, p. 228
  22. "Gene Michael". Baseball Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  23. Nelson, John (December 17, 1983). "This time, it's Yogi..." The Free-Lance Star. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  24. Chass, Murray (June 14, 1986). "Michael Named Cub Manager". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  25. Sexton, Joe (August 21, 1990). "Michael Is Named Yanks' General Manager". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  26. Brescia, Joe (February 19, 2012). "30 Seconds With Gene Michael – Starting Another Yankees Season". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  27. Sherman, Joel (September 7, 2017). "Gene Michael was much more than man who saved the Yankees". New York Post. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  28. Johnson, Richard A.; Stout, Glenn; Johnson, Dick (2002). Yankees Century: 100 Years of New York Yankees Baseball. Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 386–390. ISBN 0-618-08527-0.
  29. O'Connell, Jack (September 9, 1994). "Behind Two Strikes? Yankees' Shot at First Series Since '81 in Jeopardy". Hartford Courant. p. C1. 'The strike cost me my job,' said Gene Michael, the Yankees' current general manager who was fired as their manager Sept. 6, 1981 and replaced by Bob Lemon. 'There's no doubt in my mind we would have won the division outright if it had not been for the strike. Once they split the season and designated us winners of the first half, we did not play the same.'
  30. Curry, Jack (August 7, 1994). "BASEBALL; Flashback to '81: Another Lead, Another Strike". The New York Times. p. A1.
  31. Edes, Gordon (October 18, 2002). "Red Sox Strike Out on Michael". Boston Globe. p. E3.
  32. McCarron, Anthony (October 18, 2002). "Stick is Stuck with Yankees; Boss won't allow him to talk to Sox". New York Daily News. p. 86.
  33. Hine, Chris (September 1, 2017). "Gene Michael, Cubs manager in 1986 and 1987, dies at 79". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  34. Matin, Dan (September 7, 2017). "Gene 'Stick' Michael, architect of Yankees dynasty, dead at 79". New York Post. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  • John, Tommy; Valenti, Dan (1991). TJ: My Twenty-Six Years in Baseball. New York: Bantam. ISBN 0-553-07184-X.
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