(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.
NEW YORK — Michael Weiner, who guided Major League Baseball players through three collective bargaining agreements and in 2009 became executive director of the MLB Players Association, has died. He was 51.
Weiner died Thursday surrounded by his wife and three daughters at his home in Oxford, New Jersey, the union said in an emailed statement. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in August 2012 and continued to work while receiving radiation and chemotherapy.
"I have great respect and admiration for Michael, with whom we have had a very constructive relationship both professionally and personally," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement when Weiner announced his medical condition. "This relationship has been a great benefit to baseball and has led to the tremendous success the game now enjoys."
Known for his patience and inclusive approach to collective bargaining, Weiner helped baseball continue a labor peace that has stretched nearly two decades. He served as the union's chief negotiator with MLB in 2002 and 2006, and was executive director when the two sides signed their most recent agreement in 2011, a year in which labor conflicts led to lockouts in the National Football League and National Basketball Association.
The contract between team owners and the union, announced in November 2011, led to the first blood tests for human growth hormones for a major U.S. sports league and raised players' minimum salary every season through 2014. It also produced an unprecedented level of members' involvement, with more than 230 ballplayers attending at least one bargaining session, according to the association's website.
An avid reader and Bruce Springsteen fan, Weiner favored jeans and sneakers over suits and wingtips whether at his New York City office or teaching Sunday school to fourth and fifth graders at the Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey, according to a 2009 New York Times article.
Michael Steven Weiner was born on Dec. 21, 1961, in Paterson, New Jersey. He received a bachelor's degree in political economy from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1983 and a law degree from Harvard Law School three years later. He served three years as clerk to then-U.S. District Court Judge H. Lee Sarokin in Newark, New Jersey, before joining the union as a staff lawyer in 1988.
Weiner served as the union's general counsel from 2004 to 2009, when he succeeded Donald Fehr, who became executive director of the National Hockey League players' union.
Baseball has successfully negotiated three new labor accords without a work stoppage since a strike led to the cancellation of the second half of the 1994 season. In the past three years alone, the NFL, NBA and NHL each went through a lockout, the latter two resulting in the cancellation of regular-season games.
Weiner received the Milton and Arthur Richman "You Gotta Have Heart" Award at a New York Baseball Writers Association of America dinner in January and in July addressed reporters from a wheelchair at baseball's All-Star Game.
He said at the time that the tumor had rendered most of his right side immobile and received a standing ovation when he was finished.
"I wake up every morning looking for beauty, meaning and joy and, if I find that, I know that that's a good day," he said.
He will be succeeded in the union by Tony Clark, 41, his deputy since July.
"Words cannot describe the love and affection that the players have for Michael, nor can they describe the level of sadness we feel today," Clark said in the union's statement. "Not only has the game lost one of its most important and influential leaders in this generation, all involved in the game have lost a true friend."
Survivors include his wife, the former Diane Margolin, and daughters, Margie, Grace and Sally.