SABR member Trent McCotter has been selected as winner of the inaugural Greg Spira Baseball Research Award. McCotter’s 2012 essay, “Cal Ripken’s Record for Consecutive Innings,” compiled for the first time the correct total of consecutive innings (8,264) played by the Orioles’ great shortstop between 1982 and 1987. McCotter’s extensive research also created a list of every player who ever played at least 2,500 consecutive innings, information previously unknown despite the fact that the players involved had all retired many decades ago.
The article by McCotter, an attorney living in Washington D.C., first appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of the Society of American Baseball Research’s Baseball Research Journal (Volume 41, No. 2). It was this type of research and presentation that the Greg Spira Research Award was created to honor.
“Greg was one of the top baseball researchers of our time and probably the person most responsible for bringing baseball discussion to the Internet in its early days,” McCotter said. “But more importantly, he was an all-around nice guy, someone whose innumerable research credits show his willingness to share his work with others. I know his friends and family have put a lot of effort into preserving his memory, which is why it is such an honor to be chosen for the first Greg Spira Award. I hope it will encourage other young writers to focus their efforts on baseball research and analysis.”
Given in recognition of the best published article, paper, or book containing original baseball research by a person 30 years old or younger, the winners were announced today, April 27, which would have been Greg Spira’s 46th birthday. Spira, a longtime SABR member, was the founder of the annual Internet Baseball Awards (IBA) in 1991, now maintained by Baseball Prospectus. Spira was also an early adopter and a pioneer in using the Internet to advance baseball analysis, particularly via Usenet’s groundbreaking rec.sport.baseball group and via BaseballProspectus.com.
Spira later contributed to many sports books as a researcher, writer, and editor, including the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, Total Baseball, and annual periodicals about the Mets. A lifelong and passionate Mets fan, Spira died on December 28, 2011 in his native New York City.
Pieces eligible for consideration for the Spira Award included those published on the World Wide Web, in e-books, and in print, as well as academic dissertations and presentations at conferences. Entries needed to display innovative analysis or reasoning to be considered.
The dozen judges who evaluated the submissions for the first annual Spira Award were a mix of baseball writers and researchers who knew and respected Greg Spira and his work. The panel consisted of Sean Lahman, Gary Gillette, Sean Forman, Matthew Silverman, Dave Pease, Joe Hamrahi, Claudia Perry, Stuart Shea, Rod Nelson, Carl Rosin, Dvd Avins, and Greg’s brother, Jonathan Spira.
“One of the submissions that I read in my first round of judging was ‘Ripken’s Record for Consecutive Innings Played,’” Jonathan Spira said. “This was not only an article Greg would have liked, but it sounded like the type of article he would have written as well, both in tone and subject matter. I was pleased that my fellow judges agreed with my assessment and that Mr. McCotter is being awarded the first ever Greg Spira Baseball Research Award.”
McCotter received $1,000 as the top prize for his article on Ripken’s consecutive innings streak. The $200 second prize went to Dan Farnsworth’s article on the economics of team restructuring, “Is Rebuilding Worth It?” A 2008 graduate of Franklin & Marshall, Farnsworth serves as director of baseball operations and player development at Carmen Fusco’s Pro Baseball & Softball Academy in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. His article was originally published on Frangraphs.com.
The $100 third prize went to SABR member Caleb Hardwick’s detailed website and database about baseball in the 25th state: Arkansas Baseball Encyclopedia. Hardwick, 19, a student at the College of the Ouachitas in Malvern, Arkansas, has spent four years on the project and continues to add features to the site.
All three 2013 winners will be invited to serve as judges for the 2014 Spira Award.
Remembrances, tributes, and information about Greg Spira can be found at:
The Greg Spira Memorial Baseball Library is housed at the SABR office in Phoenix, Arizona. Visitors to the SABR office are welcome to use the Greg Spira Memorial Baseball Library for research or reading. Please call (602) 343-6455 before your visit to check on office hours and availability.
Originally published: April 27, 2013. Last Updated: April 27, 2013.