Michael Weiner, the MLB players union chief for the past four years, lost his 15-month battle with brain cancer on Thursday and passed away with his family at his side. He was 51 years old.
Weiner’s battle with cancer and an inoperable brain tumor were well known because of his resolve. Even with a weaker body and ongoing therapy, he visited teams in spring training, asking every player he met how they and their family were doing. Despite losing his ability to walk and use the right side of his body, Weiner still went to work and appeared at public gatherings representing the players union. He cared deeply about the union, the players he represented and the issues he confronted.
Others have captured Weiner and his personality well in writing and there was a prevailing theme: Weiner was an intelligent, thoughtful and kind man of high integrity who treated both the superstar and 25th man on the roster with the same dignity and care. He was known for rarely dressing up, preferring the simple and unassuming style of a polo shirt, jeans and his beloved Chuck Taylors, even thought he dealt daily with powerful agents and multi-millionaire athletes. This touching appreciation by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick describes Weiner perhaps the best.
In July, in one of his last public appearances and after Commissioner Bud Selig spoke, Weiner talked at the annual baseball writers meeting before the all-star game. From his wheelchair, Weiner addressed the Biogenesis scandal at length. He talked about his on-going fight with cancer, his prognosis and the union’s contingency plans. And in a brief pause after a few questions, he deadpanned: “Any questions about anything other than Biogenesis or brain cancer?”
Near the end of the meeting with the reporters, Weiner was asked about himself. And he took the chance to share powerful words that anyone can appreciate.
“What I look for every day is beauty, meaning and joy,” he said. “And if I can find beauty, meaning and joy, then that’s a good day. … I’ll live each day for those things. And I’ll live each day looking for those things. Because I don’t know how much time I’ll have.”
Once Weiner was done talking, the audience of reporters gave Weiner a standing ovation. Nearly four months later, Weiner passed away. He is survived by his wife, Diane, and three daughters. Former player, Tony Clark, took over as acting executive director. Condolences and appreciations of Weiner poured in from across the sport.
“All of Major League Baseball mourns the loss of Michael Weiner, a gentleman, a family man, and an extraordinarily talented professional who earned the trust of his membership and his peers throughout the national pastime,” Selig said in a statement. “Our strong professional relationship was built on a foundation of respect and a shared commitment to finding fair solutions for our industry. I appreciated Michael’s tireless, thoughtful leadership of the Players and his pivotal role in the prosperous state of Baseball today.”
Here are some reactions around the league to Weiner’s passing:
Agent Scott Boras:
From Scott Boras: “Michael Weiner’s boundless passion for players will remain an inspiration — always brilliant, humble, caring, and kind.”— Boras Corporation (@borascorp) November 22, 2013
Agent Brodie Van Wagenen:
Of Michael Weiner’s many gifts, it was his temperance that inspired me. He could always find the calm in any storm. @MLB_PLAYERS— Brodie Van Wagenen (@bvanwagenen) November 22, 2013
Sorry to hear about the loss of Michael Weiner. I’ll remember him as a great man and a true advocate for the players. #whiteconverse— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) November 22, 2013
Michael Weiner, we will miss you. Thoughts and prayers to his family, friends, and associates. #Love— Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) November 22, 2013
Very sad day in the @MLB_PLAYERS world. We’ve lost a great man and a great leader— Ross Detwiler (@NationalDet) November 22, 2013
So sad to hear about Michael Weiner. Couldn’t ask for a better leader and man. Will be missed by all.— Drew Storen (@DrewStoren) November 22, 2013
“On behalf of the Lerner Family and the Washington Nationals, we are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Weiner,” the Nationals said in a team statement. “His commitment to the game of baseball was well-recognized throughout the industry and his contributions will have a lasting impact on its long-term vitality. We send our deepest condolences to his family and the many friends and colleagues who mourn his loss.”
Here’s another great read on Weiner from a fellow brain cancer patient, Juan C. Rodriguez, who covers the Miami Marlins for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.