Former Cubs manager Gene Michael has died.
Michael, who managed the Cubs for parts of two seasons from 1986-1987 and later went on to success as a Yankees executive, died at age 79. The Yankees said he had a heart attack and died Thursday.
He was a bridge between the Cubs’ two playoff appearances — winning the N.L. East in 1984 and 1989. The Cubs named him manager on June 13, 1986 to replace Jim Frey.
“He’s been through pennant races and he’s managed a club that was always under the media spotlight,” said Dallas Green, Cubs president and general manager said at the time. “He’s certainly shown he can handle all the pressure of managing and has always produced.”
But, he wasn’t able to produce on the North Side. Under Michael, the Cubs finished fifth in the N.L. East with a 46-56 record. In 1987, he quit on Sept. 8, 1987, after going 68-68 and sitting in last place in the East. After the tumultuous 1987 season, Green resigned as well.
He was replaced as manager on an interim basis by Frank Lucchesi and then Don Zimmer was hired in 1988. Zimmer lead the team to a N.L. East division championship in 1989.
“Let’s just say that, over the years, the talent there hasn’t been up to par.” said, Michael in 1994 on the Cubs. “I know they had their year in 1984, but overall the talent just hasn’t been there for the last 13 years or so – and longer than that.
“Their talent level has been low, not drastically, but still low,” Michael said. “It’s a home-run hitter’s ballpark and you have to have the right kind of pitchers there, guys who keep the ball low and throw sinkers. They just haven’t had the right talent.”
Michael was most known for his association with the Yankees. He was a slick-fielding infielder who went on to manage the team. Later, as a front-office executive under George Steinbrenner, he built a team that won four World Series titles in five years.
At 6-foot-2 and about 180 pounds in his playing days, Michael was nicknamed Stick. He hit just .229 with 15 home runs in 10 seasons. Seven were with the Yankees from 1968-74, one of the worst eras in team history.
He made a far bigger impact during two terms as manager and two as general manager. He helped assemble the Derek Jeter-led clubs that won World Series titles in 1996 and from 1998 to 2000. He remained a key adviser to current general manager Brian Cashman.
Contributing: Associated Press.