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Ex-player among fallen heroes

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NEW YORK — Michael Weinberg was fearless on the baseball field, tracking down fly balls and coming up with big hits with quiet confidence.

To those who knew him, it seemed only natural that Weinberg would someday become one of New York's Bravest. And almost fitting that he died a hero.

The 34-year-old firefighter, former St. John's outfielder and player in the Detroit Tigers' farm system was killed in the aftermath of terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

"When I first heard about what was going on, one of the first things I said to my wife was, 'I hope Mike wasn't there,' " said Joe Russo, Weinberg's coach at St. John's from 1986-89.

Weinberg, from Maspeth, N.Y., was a member of the New York Fire Department, stationed at Engine 1, Ladder 24 in lower Manhattan. He was on vacation and getting ready to tee off at Forest Park Golf Course in Queens when he heard that the first plane crashed into one of the twin towers. His sister, Patricia Gambino, was working on the 72nd floor of Two World Trade Center but escaped.

Weinberg's firefighter instincts kicked in, and he dropped everything so he could get into Manhattan and help out.

Russo said Weinberg drove to his station house before heading to the World Trade Center with the Rev. Mychal Judge, the fire chaplain, and Capt. Daniel Brethel.

All three men died after they sought cover as the towers collapsed.