Frank Deford’s Timeless Advice to Ballplayers—and Writers

Frank Deford died Sunday at the age of 78; here’s the obit from Sports Illustrated, his writing home for many years. And an appreciation of Deford from Sally Jenkins in today’s Washington Post.

Earlier this month, I posted some wisdom from Deford about developing a skill. It was on the editorial bulletin board of the Washingtonian for many years.

May 5, 2017

Frank Deford at home in Key West with his wife Carol and dog Miss Snickers. Photo by Tom Goldman/88.5WFDD

Frank Deford has been a writer at Sports Illustrated for 50 years, he’s written 18 books, and he’s been talking sports on NPR for 37 years. He called his NPR commentaries “Sweetness and Light: The Score on Sports” and this week’s talk was his last.

He once wrote something about sports that I thought applied equally to writers:

It is my experience, with ballplayers and all other human beings, that skill is a gift of God, but that great skill demands perseverance. It may, in fact, be a curse to be naturally too good at something, because then the possessor of that bounty tends to coast. Of course, precocity is fine and dandy, and we have Mozart and Alexander of Macedon to prove it, yet I suspect that most our larger talents are not so immediately evident but must be developed and honed. Otherwise, you are just pretty good at something, but never grow to beauty. No, the full measure of proficiency surely only flows at the confluence of what God gave and the person nurtured.

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