Gene “Stick” Michael Was More Responsible For The Yankee Championship Teams In The Late 90s Than Anyone Else
Gene Michael awaits the throw to second base as Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio makes his slide (1970).
Former Yankees shortstop, manager and general manager Gene Michael died today September 7, 2017 at the age of 79 of a heart attack at his home in Oldsmar, FL.
Michael was a slick fielding light hitting shortstop who played on Yankees teams from 1968 – 1974, that were a shadow of the former Yankee teams. From 1921 -1964 the Yankees had appeared in 29 World Series, winning 20 of them.
If The New York Yankees futility of the late 1960s and early 1970s was epitomized by their second baseman Horace Clarke, then Gene Michael would unfairly be attached to that failure with his double play partner. Horace Clarke, was a career .256 hitter and average fielder who hit a total of 27 home runs with the Yankees from 1965 – 1974. Because Clarke’s career coincided with that of Michael’s the two were paired together unfairly as the face of Yankee ineptitude.
But there was never any question that Gene Michael was a decent ballplayer and a great competitor.
The “Stick,” as the six foot two skinny shortstop was nicknamed, had baseball smarts and could execute the plays a lot better than an average player. That is what kept Michael on the team. A .229 lifetime average usually won’t ensure your spot on a major league roster unless you can hit thirty or more home runs a year. Yet Michael was valued by teammates and some fans as a hard-nosed, crafty ballplayer.
One thing that Michael did that you rarely see anymore was pull the “hidden ball trick.”Michael said he would only pull it if his pitcher was in trouble.
Michael would have the ball in his glove as the pitcher would be getting ready to pitch and Michael would sneak up on an unsuspecting runner as he began to take a lead off second base and apply the tag. It’s called a bush league play today. Completely unprofessional. I disagree. It showed smarts and initiative to pull it off and I question why it is not tried more often today. I once witnessed Michael do this in person and didn’t realize what had happened.
Michael was smart in other ways. In a May 25, 1973 game against the Texas Rangers Continue reading