Tonight marked the end of principle photography for the motion picture that has been in production in New York all summer called Stano. It is a wonderful story so elegantly written by Bronx boy, Robert Bruzio. It is a story of redemption. It is a story of what sports fans would say the Yankees have been all about ever since an Ohio ship builder bought the Yankees in 1973 and besides winning championships, proved to the world that letting people who were down on their luck for whatever the reason could be helpful and positive influences in making the Yankees and New York winners again. He had people like Gene Michael help him understand baseball but also supported the Boss in making very difficult life decisions. Examples being Steve Howe, Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden. Gene was there every step of the way and these two men learned from each other and many learned from them.
Gene Michael was the people’s guy. The Stick was truly color blind. That’s why so many African Americans and Hispanics loved him so much and when I was a kid and we were playing in the sandlots, if I couldn’t be Mickey Mantle in 1968 then I was always Gene "the Stick" Michael. Most Spanish kids were the stick because a lot of us were built skinny like Gene was. Oh and by the way Gene was a very graceful dancer just like he played shortstop. Let’s not forget that he started in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization where they had so many black and Latin players that loved to dance, Roberto Clemente being one of them.
Gene Michael always wanted to write his book but never did because he was afraid of offending anyone especially the Boss or any member of the Steinbrenner family. This past year I was pushing him into doing a children’s book because I thought the kids would have loved his story, which also included the fact that he was also a great basketball player.
As many of you know, Robert Molloy and I are associate producers on the movie "Stano." We were supposed to have Gene Michael do a cameo appearance as a scout. He was so excited to be asked to appear in a movie and was beside himself. I was going to have Ken Fagan, a gentleman who had become Gene’s closest confidant the last few years, act as his assistant scout sitting next to him. However, in life things just don’t always go according to plan and as you know we lost our beloved Stick. On the last day of shooting I went to our great Cinematographer Barry Markowitz and our director Raymond De Felitta to talk about the situation and they decided that when we shot the scout's scene there would be an empty seat between the scouts to represent Gene "the Stick" Michael. De Felitta actually plays a scout who acknowledges the seat belonging to "the Stick"
To say that there wasn’t a dry eye on the movie set would be an understatement.
Thank you George Steinbrenner for realizing the potential genius of "The Stick" in 1976. Also I speak for so many of us when I say we miss you and love you so much.
Let me add that Stick and Thurman Munson were by far the best card players ever – At least that’s what the Stick would say and then he would give you that famous laugh of his.