Frank Deford, the award-winning sports writer and commentator whose elegant reportage was a staple for years at Sports Illustrated and National Public Radio, has died, the AP reports. He was 78. He died Sunday in Key West, Florida, his family said Monday. Deford was a six-time Sports Writer of the Year and a member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. He wrote and spoke with a lyrical touch and this month retired from NPR's "Morning Edition" after 37 years as a contributor. He was the first sports writer awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2013, President Barack Obama honored him for "transforming how we think about sports." Deford called the award the one he is most proud of.
"Frank was dealing with an audience that doesn't turn to the sports pages first thing," said Tom Goldman, an NPR sports correspondent who recently spent time with Deford in Key West. "And he was proudest of the many comments he got over the years from people saying, 'I don't really like sports, but I like what you did, and you made me more interested in it.'" His long profiles, covering all corners of sports, were for years a showcase in Sports Illustrated. Deford was a prolific book author, including several novels, and contributed commentaries to HBO's Real Sports program and hosted documentaries on the cable network. Deford is survived by his wife, the former model Carol Penner; two children; and two grandchildren. Click for more on his life. (Read more Frank Deford stories.)