Weiner memorial a night of 'beauty, meaning, joy'

Family, friends, colleagues gather to celebrate life of Players Association leader

Beauty, meaning and joy were in abundant supply during the celebration of Michael Weiner's life on Monday night in New York.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered at the Stage Forty8 nightclub for a decidedly upbeat memorial for the universally respected Players Association leader. Weiner died of brain cancer at age 51 in November, but not before leaving the lasting impression of his warmth, compassion, sense of fairness and fierce intellect on the thousands of people whose lives he touched.

"This is a wonderful night. Michael's not here, but we are together and we're dancing and we're laughing and we're singing," said his widow, Diane Margolin. "Thank you for carrying to his end a happy man. You all know what you did. The last year and a half was amazing. It was unbelievable. Unplanned, unending. Perfect. Mike felt needed and useful and loved. You made it possible for him to remain as much of himself as his disease would allow."

Executive director Tony Clark, Weiner's successor, hosted the evening, and eloquent tributes came from speakers including former player Craig Counsell, an MLBPA leader who worked closely with Weiner during his career, and pitcher Chris Capuano, a long-serving member of the union's pension committee.

Former Yankees star Bernie Williams played his guitar rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to begin the evening, and a little later, Chuck Taylor-clad guests took to the dance floor when a group of touring musicians from Minnesota -- including MLBPA contract administrator Cindy Abercrombie's husband, Jeff Velline -- took the stage under the name The BarnKats.

It was a reunion for the musicians. They had played for Weiner -- an avid music fan who was a regular at the New Orleans Jazz Festival every spring -- during his family's visit to Minnesota last summer.

"All of these guys played that magical night in the barn for Michael, his family and a whole bunch of friends," Velline said. "For lack of a better name, we called ourselves 'The BarnKats.'"

Grace Weiner, Michael and Diane's daughter and an accomplished singer, captivated the audience with Bruce Springsteen's "If I Should Fall Behind" and a Levon Helm-inspired version of "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free," a jazz/gospel song written by Billy Taylor and Nick Dallas.

While Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" became Weiner's theme song in his final months, he also made it a point to share his quest for "beauty, meaning and joy." It became his mantra.

"What I look for each day is beauty, meaning and joy," Weiner so often said. "If I can find beauty, meaning and joy, that's a good day."

Words to live by.