On Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball was overcome with grief and heartbreak when Gene ‘Stick’ Michael died of a heart attack at the age of 79. Since his death, those close to him — ranging from Joe Torre to current Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter — expressed their memories, sadness and grief.
“We played against each other in the Northern League in 1960. He would always kid, ‘I was fighting you for that batting title that year. I think I lost out on it by about 140 points.’ Stick was something. He was always a pleasure to be around.
“I always had a great regard for his baseball knowledge, and secondly, how he handled the stress working for George that many years. He kept the thing afloat when George was away; he did more than that because he built a heck of an organization.
“He never craved attention. Looking at it, you’d never realize what an integral part of the Yankees organization that he was.”
“Stick was a pillar of this organization for decades. He knew the game of baseball like few others did, and was always willing and excited to talk about it with anyone in earshot. His contributions to the Yankees over the years have been immeasurable. He loved baseball and this organization, and he will be profoundly missed. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Joette, and his entire family.”
“Stick was a great man with enormous heart and integrity. One of the greatest baseball executives of our time.”
“The organization will never be quite the same.”
“Mr. Steinbrenner valued him so much. He started out as his shortstop in his first year as owner. He loved and respected him as a player, coach, manager and general manager. He did it all. The Boss knew he had a gem in this guy.”
“Gene Michael was not only largely responsible for the success of the Yankees organization, but also for my development as a player. He was always accessible and willing to share his personal knowledge as well as support. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family.”
“The hallmark of his tenure was his ability to understand clubhouse culture in conjunction with having an incredibly good eye for scouting talent. He had the unique perspective of having been a manager, coach and player in addition to being GM, so he understood the culture of a clubhouse. He worked to reshape that clubhouse.”
“Never missed on an infielder. He knew Jeter made 40-something errors [in the Minors] and he’s telling me, ‘This guy is going to be an All-Star shortstop.’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he’s got a little footwork issue’ … How do you project those things and then stand by them? The right kind of stubborn.”
“Stick had a great eye for players and mentality. I will always appreciate his sense of humor and the joy he brought to those around him.”
“I am heartbroken by Stick’s passing. He was both a friend and mentor to me, and I relied upon his advice and guidance throughout my career. He did it all in this industry — player, coach, manager, general manager and scout — and his knowledge base was second to none. My condolences go out to his family, friends and all those he touched throughout his lifetime in the game. I will miss him.”
“I talked with him as a player, a coach, a manager. Those guys don’t come around every day where you can just sit and pick a baseball guy’s brain, and to me, that’s enjoyable.”
“He used his eyes and his heart to judge a player, not just stats. It’s a baseball mind and heart that is unfortunately disappearing.”
“Every time we’d be in the clubhouse after a game, if someone did well and got two or three hits, he’d say, ‘I worked with that guy before the game. We would always get a chuckle out of that because of Stick’s hitting prowess. He’d say it 10 times and we’d get a good laugh every time. We would have breakfast every morning during Spring Training. We would just sit around and talk baseball. I’m going to miss that.”
“Gene Michael always supported me when I was a young up-and-coming player and, despite some struggles along the way, always believed that I would become a significant part of the Yankees organization. I never forgot that, and today, we have lost one of the most treasured members of the Yankees family–but let’s celebrate his life and legacy. As the architect of the team that would go on to win four World Series, Gene was a significant part of our World Championship teams as anyone. I will miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and fans everywhere.”
“He’d seen the game from a lot of different angles. We really respected his opinion. I was a big fan of him.”
“Crushed. We just lost a great man on and off the field. Touched so many lives. RIP Stick.”
“So sorry to hear about Gene Michael. Thank you for giving me the best opportunity of my life: playing for the Yankees. You will be missed!!!”
“An awesome guy & mentor. I know it’s cliché, but he saw the game differently than others.”
The Yankees will wear black armbands on their left arms for the remainder of the season to honor Michael.
On behalf of everyone at Bronx Pinstripes, we send our condolences to Gene Michael’s family, friends and the fans.