Anthony Causi told so many stories through his lens.
He told the stories of athletes and celebrities. He also told the stories of the complete strangers he would meet in the street or in the stands or on the sidelines: the kid at his first baseball game, the couple getting engaged in Central Park, and the young writer in the media scrum, interviewing a legend.
The New York Post photographer spent 25 years at the forefront of the local sports scene, masterfully photographing moments both iconic and human. But when he succumbed to the coronavirus Sunday at North Shore University Hospital at the age of 48, it was clear from the many tributes that Causi’s final, most remarkable story was his own.
“He would do unbelievable things for people,” said NBC sports anchor Bruce Beck, a longtime friend, his voice hoarse from crying. “Anthony was kind. It’s one thing in life to be nice. It’s easy to be nice. It’s difficult to be kind. He was generous in a way like no one I’ve ever seen.”
“I’ve cried so much,” he said.
Causi always kept an eye out for fans living their own, personal sports memories, said Post columnist Mike Vaccaro. He did it time and time again, lugging around about 50 pounds of equipment, dropping it all to take a photo, get email addresses and names, and send the files, always for free. It’s likely hundreds of regular people have a Causi photo up somewhere in their homes, Vaccaro said, all serving as a silent testament to the man with the booming laugh and the giant lens.
“If you were going to get dinner with him on the road, you would always be late,” Vaccaro said. “Most of us walk with our heads down, to get away from the maddening crowds, but if he saw a family with a kid at his first time at the stadium, he’d stop and insist on taking the picture. He’d take 100 pictures until he got the perfect one … [People] would ask to pay him and he’d refuse.”
There are dozens and dozens of similar stories, posted on Instagram and Twitter, and on the GoFundMe set up for his family.
He first posted a photo of himself in the hospital on March 22, shortly after spending two months in Florida, covering spring training. He was put on a ventilator after that and fought for nearly three weeks. Causi, who grew up in Brooklyn and lived in Oyster Bay, leaves behind his wife, Romina, and his two children, John, 5, and Mia, 2.
Causi was a doting father, making sure to always speak to his kids and about his kids when he was on the road. And though he was fiercely competitive — “for him it was good, best and better, and he always strove for better,” Beck said — he was also universally well liked. He had a knack for getting even the most difficult athletes to trust him, and to comply with his requests, Beck said. He photographed Kevin Durant and Roger Clemens — asking him to hold a baseball just so, at a perfect angle — and went to Pedro Martinez’s house to photograph him there.
“You know how mistrustful athletes can be around the media, and there were athletes who wouldn’t have trusted anyone else on Earth,” Vaccaro said. “He’d ask them to pose a certain way and they would do it without thinking twice.”
Causi also had the uncanny ability to bridge the divide between rival media outlets. He was close to his colleagues at the Post, but the tributes came from all around the media world. Abbey Mastracco, a sports writer for the Record, recalled being overwhelmed when she first became a Mets beat writer and was dispatched to spring training.
“The first day of spring training he jokingly told me [that] if anyone gave me problems, I should let him know, because Italians take care of their own in New York,” she said. “He lost a ton of weight in 2017. Spring training 2018 he asked me to help keep him on track. I asked why he decided to lose the weight and he said he wanted to be healthy and live a longer life for his kids.”
Bob Glauber, Newsday’s football columnist, remembered a time when he went out with Causi and accidentally knocked his camera off a chair.
“I heard what I thought was breaking glass … and Anthony immediately said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ " Glauber said. “I’m thinking, I think I just broke this man’s main tool for his livelihood, but he insisted not to worry about it. A little later, I asked how much the camera was worth. It was $10,000.”
The camera survived.
“His death would be heartbreaking anyway, but these days, we lean on the kindness of people just to get us through,” Vaccaro said. “This guy had that in abundance.”
The last, lasting story from the larger-than-life man who built his legacy telling thousands of them.