Frank Deford

2011 was the inaugural year of the PEN/ESPN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. This award is given to one living American or U.S.-based writer each year to celebrate their body of work and long-time contributions to the field of literary sports writing. Eligible candidates may work in short- or long-form prose. The winner is decided by a panel of three judges, who consider letters of nomination submitted by PEN Members to PEN’s Awards Committee.

2013 Judges

David Granger, Laura Hillenbrand, and Steve Isenberg

From the Judges’ Citation

Frank Deford erased the distinction between sportswriting and writing. He did it by crafting ambitious, deeply-reported, stylistically aggressive features for a weekly sports publication. He covered nearly every sport and he varied his approach with nearly every assignment: he could make you laugh out loud, he could make you cry, he would occasionally write from a deep well of outrage—and all along the way, he found an essential humanity in the people he chose to write about. 

Frank was and is an artist, a reporter and a prose stylist. And he was as influential on writers and editors in the 80s and 90s as anyone working in any realm. Frank, along with a few other pioneers, led the way for two entire generation of writers—Gary Smith, Tony Kornheiser and Charlie Pierce in one generation and guys like SL Price and maybe even Wright Thompson in the next—practitioners who saw themselves as writers about sports as opposed to sportswriters. 

Previous Winners

Dan Jenkins, Roger Angell