Frank Deford, the sports writer and longtime commentator at Sports Illustrated and National Public Radio, died on Sunday, according to the AP (via the New York Times). He was 78.
Deford wrote numerous books, including several novels. Among his books were The Heart of a Champion: Celebrating the Spirit and Character of Great American Sports Heroes, about the careers of athletes who appeared on Wheaties cereal boxes, and Big Bill Tilden: The Triumphs and the Tragedy, about tennis star Bill Tilden.
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 was most proud, he said, of winning the National Humanities Medal, the first sports writer to do so. Presenting the award in 2013, President Obama honored Deford for "transforming how we think about sports." He added: "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 retired from NPR only last month after 37 years as a contributor. As the AP noted, "He wrote and spoke with a lyrical touch."