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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Greg Spira, RIP

Greg Spira, fellow Primate and long-time friend to many of us, passed away today. Will pass along details as I get them.

Mike Emeigh Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:27 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Rickey! something like a pipe-bomb ready to blow Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:57 AM (#4024829)
Sad news. Greg was a good guy.
   2. Repoz Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:57 AM (#4024830)
Terrible loss. I never had a better time sitting next to someone at a ball game than with Greg. Farewell...
   3. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: December 29, 2011 at 03:04 AM (#4024835)
Oh no...

Didn't know him IRL, but definitely did here. Condolences to his family and friends.
   4. Mister High Standards Posted: December 29, 2011 at 03:21 AM (#4024852)
   5. Walt Davis Posted: December 29, 2011 at 03:23 AM (#4024855)
Sad news.
   6. base ball chick Posted: December 29, 2011 at 04:10 AM (#4024884)
sorry to hear it
   7. Ron J Posted: December 29, 2011 at 04:19 AM (#4024886)

IIRC he had terrible health problems in the 90s (and presumably after) but never made any kind of deal about them.

To use a phrase from another usenet regular, a friend I've never met. And I'll miss him.
   8. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: December 29, 2011 at 04:53 AM (#4024900)
IIRC he had terrible health problems in the 90s

I did a little research - he had a kidney transplant in 1997. RIP, Greg.
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 29, 2011 at 05:07 AM (#4024904)
Sarcasm is a way of life.

RIP, Greg.
   10. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: December 29, 2011 at 05:30 AM (#4024912)
I'm very sad to hear it. My condolences to his many friends here.

I never really got to know him, but I remember him all the way back from rsb in the mid-90s. He ran one of the precursors to the Hall of Merit, an rsb HOF or something.

Ray already quoted Greg's old sig/nick from rsb: "Sarcasm is a way of life." Which summed it up so well: "Don't take offense, that's just how we do things here." Greg's wit was sharp but never mean or unfair. Seeing a thread with a last post from Spira was a definite click-through in my formative years.
   11. Repoz Posted: December 29, 2011 at 05:31 AM (#4024914)
First time I met Greg was at the first(?) SABR/Primer event in downtown NYC (about ten years ago now I guess...because Sean was running the gig)...Greg and I spent 15 minutes trying to decide the Primer/Primmer problem. Just a sharp, sharp guy. RIP, my friend.
   12. Rob_Wood Posted: December 29, 2011 at 05:39 AM (#4024917)
I am very saddened by the news. Greg was a great guy and contributed so much to baseball research.
   13. Phil Birnbaum Posted: December 29, 2011 at 06:01 AM (#4024928)
I only interacted with Greg a handful of times, but he was one of those people you know is a great guy and a smart guy after about fifteen seconds. I'm very sad that he's gone.
   14. Tom Nawrocki Posted: December 29, 2011 at 06:08 AM (#4024930)
It's a real shame. Hard to believe how long we've all been talking to each other.
   15. Mister High Standards Posted: December 29, 2011 at 06:10 AM (#4024931)
I am very sadden by the passing of Greg. Frankly, this hits hard.

For those who didn't have the distinct pleasure of meeting Greg... you missed out. He had the most wonderful ability to seem both shy and engaging. I spent some time with Greg... probably half a dozen SABR conventions over the years. I regret not spending more time with him. He was a pleasure to be around. Greg had a love of baseball and of books (particularly baseball books) that is equal to any one I have ever known. His contributions to our baseball community will be missed both on-line and particularly at SABR (for me).

What feels like many years ago, at SABR Boston - I didn't know many people. Greg was a light house. I knew that where-ever I saw him, I could follow and be welcome. In some cases I'm sure I wore out that welcome, but never with Greg. I am a better man today for knowing Greg and for that I am eternally grateful. I hope I can take the lessons I have learned from him forward in 2012 and forever.

God bless you.
   16. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: December 29, 2011 at 06:52 AM (#4024935)
I also remember him starting from rsb days way back when. Never met him in person and don't think we ever exchanged emails on anything, but I always enjoyed reading what he had to say and will miss his contributions to the baseball community.
   17. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: December 29, 2011 at 06:56 AM (#4024937)
I never really got to know him, but I remember him all the way back from rsb in the mid-90s. He ran one of the precursors to the Hall of Merit, an rsb HOF or something.
Greg ran the Internet Baseball Awards -- end of season awards voting (MVP/Cy/RoY) -- for probably 20 years, first on rsb and later under the auspices of the other BP. He was, I think, the first rsb guy I met in person; he introduced me to a bunch of other people (including, sadly, Doug Pappas). He knew almost everyone in our little community, in my experience; while I pretty much figure I wouldn't want to be seen in the same room as most of you people, Greg reached out to anybody he could, just to start up a friendship. My biggest problem with him was that he had so many interests that our phone calls went on for hours because he always had something else to talk about. Ugh.
   18. Don Malcolm Posted: December 29, 2011 at 07:08 AM (#4024939)
Even prior to my first exchange with him on r.s.b., it was well-known that Greg Spira was always battling health issues. He did so valiantly for virtually his entire life, which was ended much too soon. He and Doug Pappas deserve enshrinement somewhere: let's hope that the Internet community will explore a way to make that idea into an actuality.
   19. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: December 29, 2011 at 08:18 AM (#4024947)
At a Prospectus meetup in NYC in I'd guess '03 or something (it was at a pizza place on the upper east side - I remember Sheehan telling me the Angels were really high on Lackey) I was lucky enough to win some trivia thing, the prize of which was to attend a Mets game with Greg and a couple other people. I simply had a fantastic time. Greg was extremely nice. I still think of him every year that Prospectus does its internet baseball awards, since he used to handle that. Perhaps a nice gesture would be renaming them the Greg Spira Internet Baseball Awards or something like that.
   20. J.C. Bradbury Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:06 PM (#4024990)
Very sorry to learn of his passing. RIP, Greg. He will be missed.
   21. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:28 PM (#4024999)
Appropriate given the time of year, with a hat tip to Jay Jaffe, a piece of research Greg did way back when focusing on Jack Morris, among others.

-- MWE
   22. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 29, 2011 at 02:32 PM (#4025001)
He and Doug Pappas deserve enshrinement somewhere: let's hope that the Internet community will explore a way to make that idea into an actuality.

I was actually kicking some ideas around in my head last night (it took me a long time to go to sleep). SABR has a Doug Pappas Award that is given to the best oral presentation at the convention, and I was thinking about whether we should establish the Greg Spira Award for the best original piece of research done on the Internet, since Greg was one of the pioneers in bringing the research community on the Internet together.

-- MWE
   23. SeanLahman Posted: December 29, 2011 at 04:02 PM (#4025075)
The news of Greg's passing is devastating. As others have mentioned, Greg battled a variety of serious health problems his entire life. I was a friend of his for about fifteen years, and collaborated with him on a number of projects. The two of us had adjoining offices when we worked at Total Sports and ate lunch together almost every day.

Greg was a world-class researcher and an awfully good (though very reluctant) writer. He didn't publish many articles, never had a blog, and that's a shame, because he was driven by a curiosity that led him in a lot of interesting directions. Greg was always sending me articles he thought I'd like to read, and was usually spot on, although on more than one occasion he sent me an article I had written myself without realizing it.

Lots of fun stories I'd love to share about Greg, but today I'm just consumed by sadness.
   24. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: December 29, 2011 at 05:15 PM (#4025132)
I apologize for my ignorance, but what handle (if any) did he go by on BBTF? I'm just trying to place the name.
   25. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: December 29, 2011 at 08:01 PM (#4025330)
Was he rdfc?
   26. Ron J Posted: December 29, 2011 at 08:13 PM (#4025337)
#25 I'd be a little surprised if he went by that name. A few members of the Cult of the Deer made it here, but I don't recall Greg being a member. But then who am I to talk? There was a long period when I couldn't keep Greg and Keith Woolner straight.

Typically, Greg took it with good humor.
   27. SeanLahman Posted: December 29, 2011 at 08:19 PM (#4025344)
Yes, Greg posted here as rdfc.
   28. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 29, 2011 at 08:54 PM (#4025375)
I'm so sorry to hear this. I liked his stuff.
   29. Cyril Morong Posted: December 29, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#4025453)
Very sad. I always enjoyed talking to him at the SABR convention and reading his posts on SABR-L
   30. Cyril Morong Posted: December 29, 2011 at 11:27 PM (#4025464)
I just remembered that several years ago I had a letter to the editor printed in the NY Times book review (it has nothing to do with baseball). I got an email about it from Greg Spira (and no one else). He had some thoughtful things to say about my letter and provided some additional insights. He had actually read the book in question. I only read the review.
   31. Cyril Morong Posted: December 29, 2011 at 11:36 PM (#4025472)
Here is a link to Freakonomics when Greg was featured (it was about an article he wrote for Slate)
   32. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: December 29, 2011 at 11:38 PM (#4025473)
RIP Greg
   33. Sherri Nichols Posted: December 30, 2011 at 12:23 AM (#4025496)
I remember Greg from the old days on Sorry to hear he's gone.
   34. AndrewJ Posted: December 30, 2011 at 01:23 AM (#4025517)
And a crummy year ends on a crummy note. Greg was a welcome presence in the SABR community. He will be missed.
   35. Scott Fischthal Posted: December 30, 2011 at 04:31 AM (#4025596)
Well, that caught me off guard. I'm staring at an email from him a few weeks ago that I somehow missed and didn't answer -- just a hi, howya doin', but a reminder that someone who's always there suddenly might not be. So long, old friend.
   36. Roadblock Jones Posted: December 30, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#4025689)
My biggest problem with him was that he had so many interests that our phone calls went on for hours because he always had something else to talk about. Ugh.

Isn't that the truth? Our last call was only a few weeks ago, ostensibly to relay a message that Maple Street was pulling the plug on the Mets annual (a thing Greg pushed to start btw and was good as any of them) but went on and on (Mets, music, supermarkets, etc), until I walked out of cellphone range. Nobody gave me calls like that. I'll miss Greg!
   37. Ron J Posted: December 30, 2011 at 02:16 PM (#4025696)
Here's Dave Pease on Greg (fittingly, nabbed from usenet, though I suspect it was in turn nabbed from BP)

FROM: The Baseball Prospectus ~
By Dave Pease

Our friend, Greg Spira, passed away yesterday.

I've been in a reflective mood lately. Part of it is the holidays, I'm sure,
and spending some precious quality time with family. Part of it is the
recency of the Best of Baseball Prospectus editing experience... working
with all of that content really brought back memories of how things were in
the old days. We dedicated those books to Doug Pappas, another of our
friends who left us too soon, and whenever I flip past the dedication I'm
reminded of Doug's entertaining phone conversation with the commish...
goodness, we were all once so young and full of vinegar.

I met Greg the same way I met most of the founders of Baseball
Prospectus--on Usenet. For many of us, was an important
place in the early '90s, and finding it changed my life. One of the most
authoritative voices on rsbb when I first discovered it was Greg Spira. And
speaking of vinegar, he used to use the phrase "sarcasm is a way of life"
right in the middle of his handle. He was working on a little project he
called the Internet Baseball Awards, and I got to know him better when I
started working with him on the awards in 1993. Before web-based balloting,
running a project like the IBAs was hard work--we had to take ballots via
e-mail; we couldn't depend on consistent formatting or spelling, and we had
to tabulate the results manually. I suppose working for Greg on the
tabulation was kind of my "first job" having to do with baseball... it was
certainly the first time I was working on producing anything larger than a
Usenet post. Luckily, we were dealing with dozens of ballots instead of the
hundreds that are submitted now, but I know Greg spent a massive amount of
time administrating the IBAs over the years.

One of the things that impressed me most about Greg was his sense of
fairness. Under his somewhat grouchy demeanor, I think Greg was an idealist
at heart, and he always wanted to give people a chance. In the early days,
we got a lot of ballots that were plainly filled out by homers, idiots, or
both, and one year there was a ballot submitted with Houston Astros players
for every award. This joker's third-place Cy Young vote was a write-in of
"the ENTIRE Astros bullpen," which was plainly in violation of the rules. I
was ready to consider that a sign and dump this ballot completely, but Greg
really wanted to contact this voter, both to make sure that they knew that
their ballot was in jeopardy of not being fully counted and to clarify their
wishes for that Cy Young vote. I said, "Greg, there's nothing I can do--they
didn't enter an e-mail address in the ballot, so we don't know who they
are." He ended up trying to locate them by IP address. There's a certain
purity in that approach, I think, that I'll never be able to attain.

As you can see, Greg took the Internet Baseball Awards quite seriously. He
enjoyed their anyone-can-vote popularist aspects, and especially in some of
those lean years where the official post-season awards were just brutal, I
know he was proud that the IBAs went to such relatively deserving people.
But I was chatting with Christina Kahrl earlier today, and she brought up a
great point: Greg also did some impressive research, and if he'd had the
time and availability to write more, he had everything it would have taken
to be a well-known and influential analyst. Jay Jaffe reminded me of Greg's
contribution to Baseball Prospectus 1997 on pitching to the score, and how
it basically doesn't happen, which we're going to re-format and re-run here
at Baseball Prospectus in Greg's honor tomorrow. Remember, this was back
before (or baseball-reference, or Fangraphs); your go-to site for
baseball stats probably would have been the great Doug Steele's MLB Stats
page, where the stats are flat files and the disclaimer is cheerful... it
was a lot of work to do this kind of analysis, but Greg had what it took.

Greg liked pretty much everything about baseball, but he really liked
baseball books. Rest easy, Greg, my friend, and I hope you've got all the
baseball books you want wherever you are.

Meanwhile, back here, our next book is for you.
   38. bob gee Posted: December 30, 2011 at 06:25 PM (#4025868)
never met him, but 'knew' him from way back in the days. terribly unfortunate...
   39. Super Creepy Derek Lowe (GGC) Posted: December 30, 2011 at 10:30 PM (#4026008)
RIP, Greg. I still remember the train ride we had back from the SABR confab in DC. We rode together until you got off in Philly.
   40. Run Joe Run Posted: December 31, 2011 at 01:50 AM (#4026065)
Rest is Peace Greg, thank you for all your contributions.
   41. Neal Traven Posted: December 31, 2011 at 07:07 AM (#4026148)
Damn, such bad news.

Fittingly, Greg's last post to SABR-L (less than two weeks ago) was on the subject of baseball books. In this case, information about the economics of print-on-demand. I wish it had been a bit snarkier, which would have made it even more fitting, but sobeit.

Mister High Standards captured the essence of Greg Spira back in comment #15:
He had the most wonderful ability to seem both shy and engaging.
Greg spoke very, very quietly, but behind it there was always a twinkle in his eye. His viewpoint was just a bit non-orthogonal, his commentary often so droll that you didn't quite recognize the humor as quickly as you ordinarily did.

Greg knew about the fragility of life and health, because he'd been living on the knife-edge for years and years. In the years (decades, really) I knew him, even his best times were difficult. But no matter how tired, how weak he might be, he never let it get him down.

Gone too soon... Requiescat in pace, my friend.
   42. JW Lambert Posted: December 31, 2011 at 09:19 PM (#4026387)
I'm new here, actually I just signed up after hearing of Greg's passing. I didn't even know Greg was such a baseball fanatic. I knew Greg as a result of working with him this past year on a web site he was building. I must say that Greg always was such a genuine person and I'm glad our paths crossed, even if it was only through the ether. I know Greg had some tough health issues, but I find this news very sad. It is nice to see that he had so many wonderful friends. Rest In Peace Greg.
   43. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4029212)
Memorial site.

-- MWE
   44. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 04, 2012 at 09:34 PM (#4029214)

Welcome, JW. We hope you will be a frequent participant.

-- MWE
   45. Jonathan Spira Posted: January 09, 2012 at 09:22 PM (#4032735)
I just want to thank all of the Primates in this thread for their kind words about my brother, Greg. Despite his health issues, his passing was unexpected and reading your comments has brought me solace and helped sustain me in the past two weeks.

An additional obituary (reflecting yet another facet of Greg's life) is online here.

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