Frank Deford, deemed “NPR’s longtime philosopher of sports,” and one of the most renowned sportswriters of his era, died Sunday at 78 at his home in Key West, FL. He was a mainstay on “Morning Edition,” and broadcast on public radio for 37 years before retiring earlier this year. Deford was among the most esteemed voices in sports journalism.
“We are saddened to hear that Frank Deford has passed away,” NPR president and CEO Jarl Mohn said in a statement Monday. “Since 1980, Frank voiced sports commentary for NPR, leaving us 1,656 of his signature insights into the world of sports and the human stories behind athletic triumphs. He was a beloved colleague and a signature voice of public radio.”
Upon his retirement earlier this year, Deford expressed gratitude for this longstanding relationship with listeners, according to an NPR story: “The wonderful thing about delivering sports commentary on NPR was that because it has such a broad audience, I was able to reach people who otherwise had little or no interest in sport—especially as an important part of our human culture,” he said. “It was 37 years of a fond relationship.”
Deford joined NPR in 1980 after an award-winning career for nearly 15 years as a star writer at Sports Illustrated. That post earned him the honor of U.S. Sportswriter of the Year six times, according to SI. His body of work also includes “HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and 20 books, earning him induction into the National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in 1998, and a National Humanities Medal in 2013.
“A dedicated writer and storyteller, Mr. Deford has offered a consistent, compelling voice in print and on radio, reaching beyond scores and statistics to reveal the humanity woven into the games we love,” said President Barack Obama in 2013.