Minor league team sets are largely ignored in the baseball card hobby. It’s a niche subject that can be had for pennies on the dollar save for the rare sets or those featuring Hall of Famers.
So often you can flip through a team set of 30 cards and recognize only a couple names. Go back 30 years and a set could include mostly names foreign in the present day. Names like Wayne Weinheimer.
After purchasing 41 Cubs minor league team sets from STB Minors, I began ripping through each team set to count and look at the different designs. Chicago Cubs minor leaguers that never reached the big leagues have always fascinated me.
The 1988 Wytheville Cubs team set features a who’s who of….who? Kevin Roberson is the only player in the 26-card player checklist that reached the major leagues. Among the roster are names like: Bubba Browder, Benny Shreve, and Ronnie Rasp. And then there was Wayne Weinheimer.
On occasion I’ll come across a Cubs minor league name and throw it in a Google search to see whatever became of that player. As I was browsing through this Wytheville Cubs set I chose Wayne Weinheimer. The sole reason I chose this particular player was it was an uncommon name and the likelihood of finding the same Wayne Weinheimer in a Google search was seemingly much better than a guy like Sean Reed.
The end result was a sad one. Wayne Weinheimer is no longer with us. He passed away after a battle with cancer nearly 10 years ago. He was 38 years old. Life is fleeting.
This not-so-new news struck me. You see, I flip through these minor league baseball cards and see them as a former pro baseball player posing in uniform for a baseball card. But there’s a story behind each and every one of those players on these pieces of cardboard. Stories like Wayne Weinheimer.
“Wayne Weinheimer had a wealth of athletic gifts and
However, those skills paled when placed against the
size and depth of his heart, according to those who
knew him best.” (written by Martin McNeal of the Sacramento Bee)
Weinheimer was a standout athlete at Sacramento High School when he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 1987 MLB Draft. He would come back to his alma mater in the 2000’s as an assistant coach for the baseball team.
Instead of signing with the Cubs right away, Weinheimer went to Sacramento City College before joining the Cubs farm system in 1988. The slugger made an immediate impact for the Wytheville Cubs. Weinheimer hit .355 capturing the Appalachian League batting title. During that inaugural professional season Weinheimer was an Appy League All-Star and was also named to the Topps Rookie League All-Star Team.
One of Weinheimer’s teammates in the Cubs organization would be Matt Walbeck, who would reach the major leagues. The two were also teammates at Sacramento High School.
“When we played (American) Legion, we were just
rolling people,” said Walbeck, who played with
Weinheimer for Sacramento High School in the
mid-1980s. “We played a game in Susanville, and
Wayne hit a home run that went over the bank of lights.
It was one of the longest homers I saw him hit.
“He just ran around the bases. When he got back to
the dugout, we asked him, ‘Did you get all of that?’
And he said, ‘No,’ and went to sit down. That’s how
he was.” (from the Sacramento Bee)
A promotion awaited Weinheimer for the 1989 season for the single-A Charleston Wheelers. He played 107 games and hit just .228 with 6 home runs and 43 RBI.
By 1990, he spent just eight games in the Cubs organization, his last in organized professional baseball with the Peoria Chiefs. Weinheimer finished the season with the independent Miami Miracle and didn’t return to pro baseball until 1996 when he spent four seasons in the independent leagues. In five seasons of indy baseball he hit .311 with 35 home runs and 235 RBI.
Weinheimer didn’t just excel at hitting a baseball.
“But Wayne was just an incredible athlete. There
wasn’t anything he couldn’t play. He was the best
I saw at ‘Asteroids’ (arcade video game). Suds and
Pub on 39th and J, the guy would just dominate.” (as told by Matt Walbeck to the Sacramento Bee).
The short life of Wayne Weinheimer was summed up best by Tim Roe, sports editor of The Reporter in Vacaville, California in a July 23, 2008 column.
“The memory often is fading, but some memories remain crystal clear. I’ve written stories on hundreds of athletes, from the Little Leagues to the major leagues, in 21 years with The Reporter. Few people were as genuinely nice as Wayne Weinheimer, and few stories were as wonderful as his comeback from cancer. That only made it harder last week when Weinheimer died at age 38 after another bout with the deadly disease.