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Remembering The Legendary Frank Deford, 1938-2017

Susan Ragan
Frank Deford, editor and publisher of The National Sports Daily, holds a proof of the final front page of the newspaper after a news conference at the paper's offices in New York in 1991. Deford passed away Sunday in Key West, Florida.

The beloved NPR sports commentator Frank Deford passed away Sunday. A longtime resident of Westport, Connecticut, he was a familiar voice on NPR’s Morning Edition for nearly four decades. He left behind 1,656 commentaries – many of them from WSHU’s studio in Fairfield.

Listeners knew Frank Deford for his always poetic, often philosophical musings for NPR on sports that always seemed to touch on so much more. He delivered his first of what he called his little homilies in 1980. About ten years later, he started recording them at WSHU’s studio. Every week, WSHU Production Director Julie Freddino was always listening from the booth.

“I remember the joy. He would wave his arms around, and put everything into it. And you could tell how much he loved sports, how much he loved being able to tell these stories…Every week, when he was done, he’d look up to see my face. And he was always surprised – like, ‘Oh, it was good? You liked it?’”

She did – and so did millions of listeners.

Frank Deford delivered his final commentary earlier this month. He said nothing pleased him so much as knowing he’d helped listeners appreciate sports just a little more.

“Thank you for listening. Thank you for abiding me. And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, I bid you goodbye, and take my leave.”

Deford was also a senior contributing writer for Sports Illustrated and a senior correspondent for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. He passed away Sunday at his home in Key West, Florida. He was 78.

Read NPR's full obituary.