Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner, whose 15-month battle with inoperable brain cancer inspired both the players he represented and the league and club hierarchy with whom he occasionally sparred as a natural part of his duties, died Thursday night in his home in Mansfield Township, N.J.
He was 51.
The MLBPA made the announcement shortly before 8 p.m. on Thursday, writing on its Twitter feed that Weiner “died peacefully” with his family by his side.
Weiner succeeded Donald Fehr in 2009 and immediately showed a different leadership approach from his successful predecessor.
Forgoing suit and tie, the easygoing Weiner instead wore jeans and Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers to the office, among the many ways in which he connected with the players he served.
Weiner spent virtually his entire professional career with the MLBPA, joining the union as a staff attorney in 1988 and eventually taking over for Fehr in December 2009 as the fourth head of the organization since 1966.
Under Weiner, the relationship between the union and MLB — once acrimonious enough to cause eight work stoppages in a 23-year-span starting in 1970 — continued the improvement that began toward the end of Fehr’s tenure.
The most recent collective bargaining agreement, reached in November 2011, was the third straight negotiated agreement without an interruption of some kind.
In a statement, commissioner Bud Selig called Weiner “a gentleman, a family man, and an extraordinarily talented professional.”
Selig continued: “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.”
Weiner also oversaw several changes made to the Joint Drug Program, partnering with MLB — not always the case when it came to performance enhancing drugs — to improve testing and mete out stiffer penalties to try and produce as clean a game as possible.
“There is no mistake as to where the sentiment of the players are,” Weiner said during a stop at Yankees’ camp last spring in Tampa, Fla. “They are sick of this issue.”
Weiner was diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2012. As his health deteriorated, the union put a succession plan in place. Former All-Star Tony Clark took over Thursday as acting executive director and is to be approved as Weiner’s successor when the union’s board meets from Dec. 2-5.
Weiner is survived by his wife and three daughters.
Plans for a memorial are still in progress and dates will be announced as soon as they are available.