Frank DeFord, RIP
A giant of the literary profession passed away yesterday..
I have a couple personal remembrances of Frank.
When I was a young student assistant in Notre Dame’s Sports Publicity Department, one of my assignments was as liaison with a reporter from Sports Illustrated who was covering the ND-Michigan State Basketball game, on December 8, 1964. Because I was so in awe of being assigned as the ND-helper to S.I. (!), I never forgot the reporter’s name. Over the years, I followed his career as he achieved fame in his profession. Notre Dame’s Journalism Department honored him a few years ago for his lifetime body of work. I was one of the people invited to a private reception for him. When he was introduced to me, he said “I remember you from 1964”…that was a lie, of course……Bob Schmuhl, the outstanding Chair of ND’s journalism program put him up to that little joke.
At the event where Frank was honored, ND also gave awards to alumni who had distinguished themselves in Art, Writing, and Broadcasting. The alumnus honored for his writing was Barry Lopez, my fellow 1966 Communication Arts graduate. Barry was recuperating from a surgery and unable to attend, so he sent me his speech to deliver. So, technically, could I say that this high honor was given to me? LOL. I don’t remember the name of the NYC sculptor who won the award for his craft. I might have recalled except I was seated with Hannah Storm and was so captivated by her that I didn’t pay much attention to the sculptor. I think he had a beard. Hannah is truly an impressive young lady.
During the 80’s, I worked in public figure protection, for Gavin de Becker, the #1 man in the field. One of our clients was the actress Jessica Lange. I did three separate movie locations (Baton Rouge; Baltimore; and Kenilworth, IL) protecting her and her family. The Baton Rouge location was for “Everybody’s All American”, a movie based upon a novel by DeFord.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Frank Deford speaking at the Bridgeport Public Library inBridgeport, Connecticut, September 21, 2007
Benjamin Franklin Deford III
Carol Penner Deford
In addition to his 50-year tenure at Sports Illustrated, where he now holds the title of Senior Contributing Writer, Deford appears monthly on National Public Radio and as Senior Correspondent for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO. He has written 18 books, nine of them novels. A member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, Deford was six times voted Sportswriter of the Year by the members of that organization, and was twice voted Magazine Writer of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.
In 2012 he became the first magazine recipient of the Red Smith Award. In 2013 he was presented with the William Allen White Citation for "excellence in journalism" by the University of Kansas and became the first sports journalist ever to receive the National Press Foundation's highest honor, the W.M. Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism. Deford's archives are held by the University of Texas, where an annual lecture is presented in his name. He is a long-time advocate for research and treatment of cystic fibrosis.
Deford grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest of three sons, and attended the Calvert School and Gilman School in Baltimore. He is a graduate of Princeton University and now resides in Westport, Connecticut, with his wife, the former Carol Penner, who had been a fashion model. They have two surviving children: Christian (b. 1969) and Scarlet (b. 1980). Scarlet was adopted as an infant from the Philippines a few months after Alex's death. Deford has two grandchildren; Annabel (b. 2010) and Hunter (b. 2012). Deford met his wife in Delaware and they were married in Newport, Rhode Island in 1965.
After graduation from Princeton in 1962, Deford began his career as a researcher at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his writing at Sports Illustrated, he was a commentator on CNN and has been a correspondent for HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel since 1995; and was a regular Wednesday commentator for NPR from 1980 to 2016, when his essays became monthly. His 1981 novel Everybody's All-American* was named one of Sports Illustrated's Top 25 Sports Books of All Time and was later made into a film of the same title. However, much of his fiction is set outside of the sports realm. His most recent novel is the acclaimed Bliss, Remembered, a 1930s romance between a pretty young American and the son of a German diplomat; the story is written from the point of view of the woman. He was also the screenwriter on the films Trading Hearts (1987) and Four Minutes (2005).
*In one of my former lives, I protected movie stars for 11 years. One of my clients was Jessica Lange. She starred in this movie, so I spent a couple months with her and her family (and her boyfriend, writer/actor Sam Shepherd) in Baton Rouge, LA, where the movie was shot.
In 1989 Deford became editor-in-chief of The National, the first daily U.S. sports newspaper that ceased publication after only 18 months. After writing for Newsweek and Vanity Fair, Deford continues as Senior Contributing Writer at Sports Illustrated.
Deford served as chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation from 1982 until 1999 and remains chairman emeritus. He became a cystic-fibrosis advocate after his daughter Alexandra was diagnosed with the illness in 1972. After she died at 8 on January 19, 1980, he chronicled her life in the memoir Alex: The Life of a Child. The book was made into a movie starring Craig T. Nelson as Deford, Bonnie Bedelia as his wife Carol, and Gennie James as Alex.
- Member of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame
- Six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year winner
- Twice voted Magazine Writer of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review
- National Magazine Award recipient for 1999 Sports Illustrated article on Bill Russell
- Peabody Award recipient for writer on 1999 HBO documentary "Dare to Compete"
- Christopher Award winner
- University of Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism
- Winner of a 1988 Emmy Award for his work as a writer during the Seoul Olympics
- Winner of a CableACE in 1994 for writing the HBO Sports documentary Arthur Ashe: Citizen of the World
- Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism recipient in 2003
- Received ten honorary degrees, most recently in 2011 from Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.
- 2012 Denver Press Club, Damon Runyon Award Recipient
- 2013 William Allen White Foundation National Citation at the University of Kansas
- 2013 Awarded a National Humanities Medal for "transforming how we think about sports." 
- 2013 PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing 
- Five Strides on the Banked Track: The Life and Times of the Roller Derby, Publisher: Little Brown & Company (1971), ISBN 978-0-316-17920-1
- Cut 'n' Run, Publisher Viking (1973)
- There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America, Publisher: Viking Press (1975) ISBN 0-670-69858-X
- Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and The Tragedy, Simon & Schuster (1976)
- The Owner, Publisher: Viking Press (1978)
- Everybody's All-American, Publisher: Viking (1981)
- Alex: The Life of a Child, Publisher: Viking (1983) ISBN 0-670-11195-3
- The Spy in the Deuce Court, Publisher: Putnam (1986) ISBN 0-399-13134-5
- The World's Tallest Midget: The Best of Frank Deford, Publisher, Little Brown(1987) ISBN 0-316-17946-9
- Casey On The Loose, Publisher: Viking Press (1988)
- Love and Infamy, Publisher: Viking Press (1993)
- The Best Of Frank Deford, Publisher, Triumph Books (2000) ISBN 1-57243-360-4
- The Other Adonis: A Novel (2001) Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN 1-4022-0011-0
- An American Summer: A Novel (2002) Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN 1-4022-0059-5
- The Old Ball Game Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (2005) ISBN 0-87113-885-9
- The Entitled, Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (2007) ISBN 1-4022-0896-0
- Bliss, Remembered Publisher: The Overlook Press (2010)
- Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (2012) ISBN 0802120156