An Interview with Athletic Trainer Barry Weinberg
When you’re in the majors for 33 years, you end up witnessing some historical moments. For Barry Weinberg, those moments include an earthquake during a World Series game, the death of Thurman Munson and the St. Louis Cardinals’ unbelievable run to a championship in 2011. And to think, he almost chose a different career.
In college, Weinberg, like many college students, was unsure of what career path to take. He thought he would become a physical education teacher or guidance counselor. When he only got good grades in first aid and prevention of athletic injury, it pushed him to pursue a master’s degree in athletic training at Indiana University. While at Indiana, Weinberg worked with Lee Corso during football season and Bobby Knight during basketball season. Weinberg wasn’t sure if Knight even knew his name and was nervous to approach him on his last day with the team. As Barry recalls, “I came up to [Knight] and thanked him for just allowing me to help out…He put his arm around me and he said, ‘Barry, thank you very much and if you ever need a reference you put my name at the top of the list.’ And I thought, oh my god he knows my name.”(Weinberg and Knight are now very good friends).
From Indiana, Weinberg worked his way through the minor leagues before landing the assistant athletic trainer position with the New York Yankees in 1979. The Yankees were coming off a World Series title in ’78 and their roster included Reggie Jackson, Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella, Oscar Gamble and Graig Nettles. Talk about your personalities. The transition to the majors was much like it would be for a player. “In your first year, you just keep your mouth shut and look and listen.You always have confidence in your abilities [but you’re also] apprehensive and wondering how it’s going to work and what it’s going to be like,” Weinberg explains. On top of that, he was now meeting and working with players whose baseball cards he had as a kid.
In 1982, Weinberg became the athletic trainer for the Oakland Athletics. As the head athletic trainer, he was responsible for the daily reporting of all injuries to the manager and general manager and organizing the rehab schedule for the players who were hurt. While with Oakland, he won his first World Series ring in 1989. After 15 years with the A’s, ten with Tony LaRussa as manager, Weinberg joined LaRussa in St. Louis. He won two more rings in St. Louis, in 2006 and 2011. Winning the World Series is “a culmination of everything you’ve done in the game, starting back when you’re a little kid…[The win in 2011] was just the most spectacular feeling in the world because of where we came from and how we fought hard and all of the little things that had to go right. It’s hard to describe the emotional roller coaster that you go through… you’re on the verge of being eliminated and then you’re not eliminated, then you’re eliminated, then you’re not eliminated.[You think about all of] the little things along the way, the good, the bad and at that one point it all adds up to good,” Weinberg said.
Over the years, Weinberg has worked with so many players and coaches that it’s hard to keep track of them all. He greatly enjoyed working with LaRussa and says that people would be surprised to know that he’s got a great sense of humor on the bench. The tremendous respect the players have for LaRussa was evident when the Cardinals retired his jersey earlier this season.Players from every era of LaRussa’s career came out for the ceremony to show their appreciation.
As for the players he’s worked with, Weinberg can’t pick a favorite…he’s had great moments with so many guys.“I’ve worked with Albert Pujols, Dennis Eckersley, Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, Mark McGwire, Mike Bordick, Darryl Kile, Catfish Hunter, Yadier Molina…and they’re all very special to me and special teammates. You see all the effort they put in, what kind of family person they are…the things they do on and off the field make them special teammates and special people.”These names are just a small sample of the players Weinberg categorizes as “special” but to list them all would fill up numerous pages.
Currently, Weinberg is the Senior Medical Advisor for the Cardinals. He works with and develops the young trainers on their minor league staff. He was also recently named the Israeli team’s athletic trainer for the World Baseball Classic this fall. Weinberg is very pragmatic about his career, saying, “I don’t think what I’ve done is very special, it’s just what I do everyday, it’s just my job. The people that I deal with, some of them have famous names and I hope over the years, they’ve respected me as much as I’ve respected them.” Only time will tell what other moments in baseball history Weinberg will take part in but when he looks back at his career, it seems the little moments will stand out more.