MLB: Influential researcher Spira dies at 44

From Evan Drellich at on January 9, 2012, on longtime SABR member Greg Spira (with quotes from SABR members John Thorn, Gary Gillette and Sean Forman):

In the early days of the online world, well before American Idol and social media made the public’s input commonplace, Greg Spira created the Internet Baseball Awards.

A Harvard University graduate and prolific researcher, Spira brought the awards from a niche online community to the Web at large. Hosted today by Baseball Prospectus — the sabermetrics-minded outlet Spira helped grow in its nascent years — the IBAs celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2011.

Shortly before the New Year, Spira passed away at age 44.

He had long struggled with his health and died in New York City, where he was born and raised, of complications from polycystic kidney disease and a subsequent kidney transplant.

“If Greg had, if he had caught a break and had some cessation of medical woes, he could’ve been the equal of most anybody in the sabermetric and analytical crowd,” said John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian who worked with Spira for several years.

Spira was the son of Fred Spira, a renowned innovator in and collector of photography, and Greg had his father’s knack for assemblage. Jonathan Spira, Greg’s older brother and lone sibling, estimated Greg’s library comprised easily several thousand volumes. Thorn believes the number of “modern” baseball books that Greg had assembled could well be unparalleled.

“Greg got everything that came out,” Thorn said. “So if you’re talking about modern baseball books, say 1990 forward, I don’t know who would equal Greg, apart from a library.”

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Originally published: January 9, 2012. Last Updated: January 9, 2012.