SBD/November 22, 2013/People and Pop Culture

MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner, Who "Gave Far More Than He Received," Dies At Age 51

Weiner (r) is remembered by those that knew him as "courageous" and "brilliant"
MLBPA Exec Dir MICHAEL WEINER died on Thursday at the age of 51 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer, and he will be remembered as a "highly respected leader and continuing architect of the sport's longest period of management-labor peace," doing the leg work on two CBAs in a "stretch that has reached 18 years without a work stoppage," according to Paul White of USA TODAY. Weiner "oversaw the most significant period in the union's history" since late MLBPA Exec Dir MARVIN MILLER "drove it into the national consciousness several decades earlier." The "personable" Weiner "insisted on remaining active almost to the end." Meanwhile, MLBPA Deputy Exec Dir TONY CLARK takes over as acting Exec Dir and is "scheduled to be approved as Weiner's successor next month" (USA TODAY, 11/22). MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG called Weiner a "family man, and an extraordinarily talented professional who earned the trust of his membership and peers throughout the national pastime. ... Michael was a courageous human being, and the final year of his remarkable life inspired so many people in our profession." NHLPA Exec Dir DONALD FEHR, who worked at the MLBPA with Weiner for many years, said, "Mike was an extraordinary individual in so many ways: As a loving husband and father, as an exceptional union leader and lawyer, and as a great friend to so many." Former MLBPA COO GENE ORZA said, "Right now, tears are everywhere at the loss of Michael. ... He was special, and it is unfair. For those of us who worked alongside him in the offices of the Players Association, there is nothing less than a hole in our hearts right now" (THE DAILY).

A BRAVE BATTLE: Weiner was elected as the MLBPA's fifth Exec Dir in '09, suceeding Fehr, and had been with the union since '88. The MLBPA said that Weiner lost his battle with glioblastoma "with his family by his side at his home." MLB.com's Barry Bloom notes Weiner at the end was "wheelchair-bound and paralyzed on his right side." White Sox Chair JERRY REINSDORF said, "Michael's intellect and talent were unmatched." Dodgers President & CEO STAN KASTEN said, "He was truly a great individual, a brilliant lawyer and a thoroughly decent person" (MLB.com, 11/22). In N.Y., Richard Goldstein writes, "An informal presence at the bargaining table, partial to blue jeans, flannel shirts with no necktie, and high-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars, Weiner pressed his points without a hard edge." He was "known for his mastery of contract details and his willingness to listen to and consider -- though not necessarily accede to -- management’s arguments" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/22). Also in N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes of Weiner, "He served just under four years as the head of the union, but made an indelible mark." Nationals P and union rep ROSS OHLENDORF in a text message wrote, "Michael had a knack for making every player feel important. He was both brilliant and humble." Blue Jays P R.A. DICKEY said, "There was not one attribute he lacked to be a great leader." Weiner "leaves behind a union widely acknowledged as one of the strongest in the nation, whose stance on drug testing, in particular, has evolved under his direction" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/22). ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said, "Reason is something that is often in short supply in our society in every regard and certainly in sports, and Michael Weiner was a reasonable man. To be in that role and to be universally respected I think is almost impossible to do and he did it" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 11/22).

AN INDELIBLE MARK: In N.Y., Bill Madden writes of Weiner, "He made the most of his brief stewardship by winning the universal respect and downright affection from everyone in the game even as he never strayed from its 'best interests.'" He "brought a kinder, gentler, wittier persona to the baseball labor arena," in addition to "meaning and joy to the lives of all the people he touched in his too-short tenure as champion and leader of baseball players" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/22). ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick wrote Weiner "left a positive and enduring mark on the game." Beyond his "intellectual prowess, Weiner possessed an empathy and a human touch." As he "grew progressively sicker with cancer, the baseball world wrapped him in its arms and embraced him." He "gave far more than he received," which is his "ultimate legacy" (ESPN.com, 11/21). MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian said, "It's not often that a head of a players' union is seen as a galvanizing figure the way that Michael was" ("Hot Stove Live," MLBN, 11/22).

A MAN OF THE PEOPLE: FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote, "If I had to think of one word to describe Michael, it would be 'unassuming.'" It "was not within him to be condescending." If anything, he "became even more open, more accessible" as he became sick. He also "maintained his sense of humor, asking reporters at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America meeting at the All-Star Game, 'Any questions not related to Biogenesis or brain cancer?'" He "correctly recognized that on the subject of PEDs, the conflict was not between players and owners, but players and players -- those who cheated, and those who did not." The players "revered him not only because of his sensitivity to their wishes, but also because of his sheer, inherent decency -- a decency that never wavered, even when his body was broken" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/21). In L.A., Bill Shaikin writes of Weiner, "His casual manner and dress belied his stature as one of the smartest men ever to work in sports." His popularity "extended beyond the players and their union to the commissioner's office, and to the very executives against whom he negotiated" (L.A. TIMES, 11/22). MLB.com's Richard Justice writes Weiner's "grace and courage during a fight against brain cancer revealed the depth of his character and strength of his convictions." His fingerprints "will be on baseball forever, but so will the way he touched people, treated them decently and tried to do the right thing by them" (MLB.com, 11/22). In Newark, Craig Wolff writes of Weiner, "Shedding any self-consciousness as he became frail and confined to a wheelchair, he remained a presence in clubhouses and on ball fields well into this year." He also "became a symbol beyond the sport, helping to raise millions in cancer research" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/22). NBC's Bob Costas said, "Everyone in the game respected" Weiner, who was a "man of tremendous intellect." Costas: "But he wasn't dug-in to the point where no negotiation and no give-and-take or no compromise was possible" ("Hot Stove Live," MLB Network, 11/22).

REACTIONS POUR IN: Weiner's death drew a number of responses on Twitter. The L.A. Times' Shaikin wrote, "A mensch lost too soon." The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly: "Class act. Tremendous strength. Smart and kind man. He will be missed." ESPN's Darren Rovell: "Haven't seen many people fight for their last days like Michael Weiner did. In turn, he made our days more valuable." USA Today's Bob Nightengale: "MLB officials greatly respected his brilliance and acumen in negotiations." D-Backs P BRAD ZIEGLER: "One of the best leaders & men I knew." Marlins P and union rep STEVE CISHEK wrote, "This guy fought hard for us players and he will never be forgotten. He will be missed." Tigers P MAX SCHERZER: "He had a special and unique way to connect to everybody that never will be forgotten." Angels P C.J. WILSON wrote, "He was truly an inspiration to us and a stronger man [than] the rest of us." Free agent P CLAY RAPADA: "Was so helpful and informative to journeymen like myself." Free agent P JOEL HANRAHAN: "You could tell that Michael Weiner really cared about us" (TWITTER.com, 11/21).
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