Sports writer and novelist Frank Deford dead at 78

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“Sports Illustrated” writer Frank Deford, who worked at the magazine for decades and was well-known as both a commentator and novelist, has died in Florida, his wife confirmed on Monday. He was 78 years old.

Frank Deford passed away in Key West, Florida, on Sunday, his wife Carol Deford told the Washington Post. There was no immediate word on the cause of Frank’s death.

The news comes just weeks after Deford bid listeners goodbye on the National Public Radio (NPR) news program “Morning Edition,” where he came on as a commentator each week for 37 years. No reason for his departure was given at the time.

“Frank Deford is among the most versatile of American writers,” Sports Illustrated said in his biography. “His work has appeared in virtually every medium, including print, where he has written eloquently for Sports Illustrated since 1962.”

At the time of his death, Deford was the magazine’s Senior Contributing Writer and he wrote a weekly column for, the magazine’s website. On TV, he was a regular contributor on HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.”

In addition to his work as a sports writer and commentator, Deford also wrote 20 books, nearly half of them novels. Two of his books – the novel “Everybody’s All-American” and “Alex: The Life Of A Child” – were made into movies.

The book “Alex: The Life Of A Child” was about his daughter who died of cystic fibrosis.

In 2013, Deford was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama for transforming how we think about sports. “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,” the Obama White House said at the time.

Deford was named U.S. Sportswriter of The Year a total of 6 times and he was also elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. Some, such as The American Journalism Review and GQ, called Deford one of the nation’s greatest sportswriters.

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