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Gene 'Stick' Michael, Who Helped Build Yankees '90s Dynasty, Dies

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Gene "Stick" Michael, a longtime Yankees executive who was the architect of the franchise's dynasty in the late 1990s, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 79.

Michael was a player, manager and general manager for the Yankees. But his greatest impact on the organization came as its GM from 1991-95. He drafted or signed all of the Yankees' "Core Four" -- Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. He also traded for outfielder Paul O'Neill before the 1993 season. Together, they helped the team win the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Gene Stick Michael
Gene "Stick" Michael waves to the crowd during the team's Old Timers' Day in 2009. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Michael was fired as GM before the Yankees won it all in '96, but he remained with the organization as its vice president of major league scouting until 2003. He was then promoted to vice president and senior adviser.

MORE: Sweeny: Keen Eye, Deep Knowledge Of Baseball Paved Way For Stick's Success

"Stick was a pillar of this organization for decades," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said in a news release. "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."

Said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman: "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."

Jeter credited Michael with having a big hand in his stellar career.

"Gene Michael was not only largely responsible for the success of the Yankees organization, but also for my development as a player," he said. "He was always accessible and willing to share his personal knowledge as well as support. He will be greatly missed."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who managed the Yankees under Michael from 1992-95, called him the "best baseball evaluator I ever saw."

"He had a great gut," Showalter said Thursday before the Orioles-Yankees game in Baltimore. "Never missed on an infielder. Gosh, I was so fortunate to have a general manager ... to have that luxury of having a guy that played the game, coached the game, coached third base, first base, coached the infielders, managed the Yankees, was a great scout for the Yankees and just a source for me and a guy that cut to the chase. So blatantly honest and ethical when it came down to it."

Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi agreed that Michael had a gift for evaluating players.

"Obviously he was such an important part of building those championship teams and just the conversations I had with him about players and how he was able to project so well what players would become," Girardi said. "And he did it with sitting and watching with his eyes, and he just had a great feel for the game."

Yankees players are honoring Michael by wearing black arm bands during Thursday's game.

In two seasons as the Yankees' manager (1981-82), Michael went 92-76. He also managed the Cubs in 1986 and '87, going 114-124.

Nicknamed "Stick" for his lanky build, Michael played 10 seasons in the majors from 1966-75, seven of those years for the Yankees. A shortstop, Michael batted .229 with 15 homers and 226 RBIs for his career.

Others in the Yankees family reacted to the news of Michael's death on social media Thursday.

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