Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford died on Sunday in Key West, Florida, according to the Washington Post. He was 78 years old.
Deford started writing at Sports Illustrated in 1962 and had two lengthy stints with the magazine. The first came from 1962 to ’89, when he became known as the master of the bonus story—the longest piece in each issue—and the second lasted from 1998 until his passing, during which time he continued to write his signature longform stories.
He also worked with NPR’s Morning Edition for 32 years. He retired earlier this month following his 1,656th NPR commentary.
Deford wrote more than a dozen books, served as a contributor to HBO’s Real Sports and, from 1990 to ’91 was the editor-in-chief of the short-lived The National, America’s first and only all-sports daily newspaper.
Deford was elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters in 1998 and was been voted by his peers as the U.S. Sportswriter of the Year six times.
President Obama awarded Deford the National Humanities Medal in 2013, saying, in part: “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.”
Deford also served as the national chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation after his first daughter, Alex, died of the disease at the age of 8.