“More words about the Mets have been written by the people in this photograph than have been written by the people in any other photograph I’ve ever seen.”
So noted the man in the upper right of this photograph, Dana Brand, a friend I lost suddenly this past May at 56. I’m compelled to take another look at it for all the wrong reasons seven months later, having received word that the man in the lower left of this photograph, Greg Spira, has passed away at the age of 44 after battling through a longstanding series of health issues.
It’s a tough picture for me to linger over by dint of those sorrowful developments. Yet it’s a wonderful picture for me to linger over because I know what happened that day.
I formally met Greg a couple of hours before it was snapped, May 15, 2008, Nationals 1 Mets 0. I was there courtesy of the man in the lower right, Matthew Silverman. He worked closely with Greg on several baseball projects over the years. They were co-editors of the first Maple Street Press Mets Annual (then known as Meet The Mets), a publication to which Dana and I had contributed. Convening this group at Shea Stadium was Matt’s way of saying thanks to each of us for our help. Or maybe it was just an excuse to make various strands of virtual acquaintanceship a little more real in an atmosphere amenable to the lot of us.
Doesn’t matter now. What does is the four of us got to sit in somebody’s corporate field box on the third base side of Shea Stadium and watch baseball, talk baseball and thoroughly enjoy baseball together. Knowing that and remembering that — despite the sadness that has intruded on this picture twice in 2011 — reminds me (the man in the upper left, if you’re scoring at home) what a fun afternoon we had and what a good deal this Mets fandom thing is…one-nothing encounters of the wrong kind notwithstanding.
Dana was right, by the way. We all wrote a forest’s worth about our Mets. You can sample a bit of Greg Spira’s output here. He was a top-notch baseball researcher, displaying depth of curiosity and the doggedness to sate it. I got a hint of how Greg operated when he asked to touch base with me for a Mets-related piece of his in the summer of 2010. Said he’d call me and that he wouldn’t take too much of my time. We wound up on the phone for close to three hours — three of the more stimulating hours I’ve spent in conversation with anybody.
Otherwise, I knew Greg through Matt in friend-of-a-friend fashion. There were a couple of other ballgames. There was the occasional misrouted e-mail when Matt’s address book didn’t discern which Greg he meant to contact. Mostly there was that phone call and this photo and the bright, sunny May afternoon on which it was taken.
A good day to be out at the ballpark. A good day to be a Mets fan.