He was, without a doubt, one of the true giants in the field of sports journalism. Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Deford III passed away at his home in Florida this week. The American sportswriter and novelist was 78.
In chronicling his sad departure, his decades-long broadcasting soapbox National Public Radio called him a “longtime philosopher on sports.” He was just that.
Deford was more than an iconic voice. He was a prolific writer. He joined the ranks of Sports Illustrated in 1962 and never looked back. In addition to generating countless rows of copy for a collection of top national publications like SI, Deford also published more than 20 books including his recent Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter and The Old Ball Game chronicling the rise of modern baseball. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, you should.
Deford wasn’t afraid of a rhetorical fistfight on sports topics of the day and he often defended America’s obsession with sports. He was unequivocal: “it deserves to have as much attention paid to it.” It is, Deford rightly understood, an “important part of our human culture.”
For those of us that love to play, watch and debate every variant of sport at every level of play, Deford was in an elite fraternity of writers and commentators that helped us see the subtleties of the game and its larger cultural narrative alike.
Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Deford III “hung up his cleats for good” this week. He will be missed.