Gene "Stick" Michael, who played a crucial role in the development of the New York Yankees' most recent dynasty, died Tuesday, the Yankees announced.
We are deeply saddened by news of the death of Gene Michael, '67. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/ISMFsugFYA— Kent State Athletics (@KentStAthletics) September 7, 2017
Michael, 79, was installed as the Yankees' general manager in August 1990, the final act by owner George Steinbrenner before the Boss served a 2 1/2-year suspension from Major League Baseball for paying a gambler to "dig up dirt" on Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield.
Freed from Steinbrenner's well-intended but impetuous meddling, Michael let the Yankees' finest homegrown prospects develop, a group that eventually included Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. Michael's regime drafted Derek Jeter sixth overall in 1992, and four years later, Jeter began a two-decade run as the Yankees' shortstop and franchise bedrock.
“He was the best,’’ Yankees president Randy Levine told USA TODAY Sports. “A man of character and integrity, and central to the success of the New York Yankees.’’
Said Jeter in a statement released by the Yankees: “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.”
Michael also engineered one of the Yankees' finest trades since they acquired Babe Ruth: Dealing Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O'Neill in November 1992. O'Neill batted .303 with an .869 OPS in nine years with the Yankees, and played on all four of their World Series championship teams.
Michael was fired as Yankees GM after the 1994-95 labor dispute, but his handiwork was complete: The Yankees made the playoffs for 13 consecutive years after Michael's dismissal.
“Stick was such a great baseball man, and was so great with stories, some you can print, and a lot you couldn’t,’’ said former major league GM Doug Melvin, who worked with the Yankees from 1979-86. “He was the one guy that convinced [George] Steinbrenner not to trade the younger guys. He told them to suck it up for a few years, and it will pay off.
"Well, you saw how it paid off. They became a dynasty.’’
Michael eventually returned to the Yankees in 1996, and served as a valued lieutenant in myriad front office roles under GM Brian Cashman in the years since.
"Stick was a great man with enormous heart and integrity," Levine said in a statement. "One of the greatest baseball executives of our time. He was central to the success of the Yankees."
Contributing: Bob Nightengale