The Yankees and the baseball world lost a dear friend and a baseball genius. On September 7, 2017, Gene “Stick” Michael passed away, from an apparent heart attack. Loved by all who ever had the privilege to call him a friend, a true Yankee through and through.
It was a cold winter’s day in central Illinois, back in 1986. My family and I had just returned from visiting family, from our home up north. After checking into the motel. We did the short drive to my mother in-laws for supper. Just parked my butt, on her couch and started wrestling with my boys. Then her phone rang.
It was my high school buddy! Dave, a die-hard Cub fan, wanted me to go with him to the Cub Caravan that evening. Hell yes, I would do just about anything to get out of spending the night at my mother in-laws. My wife said with a smile,”This will be nothing but a partying event!” “Make sure Dave drops you off at the motel!”
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Obviously, Dave and I did not want to prove my spouse wrong. We set off hitting ever drinking establishment along the way. It was no accident, and we arrived at the Cub Caravan event with a buzz on. Dave was lapping it up, like a big old dog. He was getting to meet his heroes of the diamond. Yes, even some legends of yesteryear fame as well.
Well, I was that tag along, at the Caravan. We were making our way through the tables set up for meeting and greeting of the Cubs. You know the routine, tables set up for fans to talk to players and get their autographs. Dave and I arrived at the manager’s table; he was doing that Go Cub Go routine giving one and all, faith and hope for the coming season.
Meeting a man called “Stick”:
The manager noticed, my apparent disinterest. He said, “Hey cheer up young man, we have a very good team!” “We are going to do some damage this year!” “Don’t you agree?” Well, I have never been one to ask, if you did not want to hear the answer.
I told him: “Frankly, I could care less!” He responded, “You must be one of those Cardinal fans?” the manager proclaimed. “Nope, I am a Yankee fan!” I said. Suddenly, he pushed himself back from the table and stood up. Bending over the table towards me, he whispered, as I leaned over towards him, “I am a Yankee fan, too!” he said. The Cub manager stood up, shook my hand, gave me a sheepish grin and a wink as I moved on from his table.
Being young and dumb I did not realize I was talking to Gene “Stick” Michael, a Yankee World Series Champion. Just too busy trying to climbing the corporate ladder to care much of anything about Chicago baseball. I was just glad; I was still able to play the game regularly, at that point in my life.
I had to crack a smile and laughed at myself. When, a few years later, Gene “Stick” Michael had become the new Yankee’s General Manager. It was that same Cub manager, who told me he was a Yankee fan too.
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