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Frank Deford: In Memoriam

Who was Frank Deford?

There was a breakthrough in journalism in the mid twentieth century. Instead of writing stories fitting the traditional standards of reporting, journalists started using literary techniques usually reserved for short stories and novels. The movement, branded New Journalism, came into its own around the same time Frank Deford was breaking through as a young writer at Sports Illustrated. Deford adopted many of the devices of New Journalism and applied them to sportswriting, making him a pioneer in the long-form sports journalism associated with that magazine.

"There is no question in my mind that I came along at the right time," says Deford. "If I had come along ten years earlier when there was no Sports Illustrated and when I would have had to have spent many years covering a baseball team on a day-to-day basis, I don't think I would have stayed in sportswriting."

Deford joined a Sports Illustrated team that was reviving a once-struggling magazine. The magazine needed a boost, and it came in the form of bonus pieces at the back of the magazine, and there was no better bonus piece writer than Deford.

He was a writer before he was a sports journalist. At a young age, Deford tried to add literary elements to his stories about sports that others might not have considered using. He inserted himself into stories. He was versatile, willing to set a mood and tone. He became the Mickey Mantle of sports feature writing. Read more...

Deford at the Library

Frank Deford was a Westport resident and library patron. He has also spoken at the library on many occasions.

Listen to his podcasts here!

Frank Deford

12/16/38 - 5/28/17



American Sportswriter and Novelist

Sports Commentator on NPR's Morning Edition Radio Program (1980-2017)

Writer for Sports Illustrated Magazine (1962-2017)

Friend of the Westport Library

Legendary sportswriter Frank Deford dies at age 78 ESPN News

Frank Deford, a legend in the world of sports journalism, has died at age 78 in Key West, Florida, according to his wife, Carol Penner Deford.

The Baltimore native spent 50 years writing for Sports Illustrated, but some might be more acquainted with his booming voice delivering unique takes on sports on National Public Radio. Deford also wrote 18 books, nine of them novels -- such as "Everybody's All-American" -- in a wide-ranging career.

Deford had announced his retirement from NPR after 37 years earlier this month.

"I have survived so long because I've been blessed with talented and gracious colleagues, and with a top brass who let me choose my topics every week and then allowed me to express opinions that were not always popular," he said. "Well, someone had to stand up to the yackety-yak soccer cult.

"And perhaps just as important, I've been blessed with you, with a broad and intelligent audience -- even if large portions thereof haven't necessarily given a hoot about sports. Nothing has pleased me so much as when someone -- usually a woman -- writes me or tells me that she's appreciated sports more because NPR allowed me to treat sports seriously, as another branch on the tree of culture." Read more...