God Bless Michael Weiner
NEW YORK — The main thing I have to say about Michael Weiner is that he has a lot of guts. He is nearing the end stage of brain cancer and still is fighting the good flight.
Now wheelchair bound, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Player Association was on the field on Monday evening at Citi Field surrounded by those who love him — his wife and support staff from the union.
A number of members of our baseball writing establishment who have developed wonderful relationships with him over the course of the years surrounded his chair and leaned over to hear him speak in a now hushed tone. I did everything I could not to openly weep in front of him. It’s been less than a year since he was diagnosed with the non-operable tumor. We have all watched him deteriorate in front of our eyes.
“Look, you’re never prepared to deal with this kind of change in life,” he told me during an interview near the end of Sprint Training conducted in the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. “My attitude is that I’m going to enjoy every day that I can. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the family I have. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the job that I have. I’m incredibly lucky to have the friends and the colleagues and the professional acquaintances I have. And I’m just going to enjoy them as much as I can for every day. Hopefully it’s going to be a lot of days.”
A year ago in Kansas City at the All-Star Game he was his usual vital self. I sat with him in the airport the day after the game trying to jump on an earlier flight to New York to see my father, who had just had foot surgery. We talked about our families. I didn’t get on the flight.
The next time I saw him later that summer was in the visitor’s clubhouse at Yankee Stadium before a Red Sox-Yankees game. He looked up and the first words out of his mouth were, “How’s your dad?” That’s the kind of person he is. A mensch.
The cancer diagnosis came out of left field, so to speak. He was feeling numbness in his hand and went to the doctor. An MRI revealed the tumor. It’s called a gliobastoma. It’s in an area of his brain that can’t be reached by surgical means and is 99 percent fatal. Somehow I hoped and prayed that through chemo and radiation they would at least keep it at bay. So did everyone else.
But he told me on Monday that last month the symptoms took a turn for the worse and suddenly sped up dramatically. He’s lost function on the right side of his body and is taking an experimental series of drugs as a last resort.
Still, he wanted to be here for this All-Star weekend because as an attorney and head of the union, he absolutely adores the game, which excites us in times of strength and gives us solace when we are weak.
I know, When I was battling colon cancer four years ago, I covered the 2009 World Series in between chemo treatments. I wasn’t going to allow a little thing like cancer to keep me from a Fall Classic between the Phillies and my beloved Yankees.
“Even just sitting here in the dugout and talking with you and looking out over this beautiful ball field is a great thing,” he told me a mere 3 1/2 months ago.
I imagine he felt even more so on Monday night.
“You’ve given it a great fight,” I told him.
“That’s the only way I know to go about it,” he responded in a whisper.
“Nothing else seems to matter right now except what’s happening to you,” I said.
“Thank you. I appreciate that,” he said.
No, thank you. Thank you for your courage and your friendship and God bless you for all eternity.