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Afternoon Shift

A half-century of sports writing with Frank Deford

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(Photo courtesy of Atlantic Monthly Press)

The life of a beat sports reporter is not for everyone—it wasn’t for legendary sportswriter Frank Deford. If beat writers want access to locker rooms—and the players who quietly control admittance to them—they've got to play by a set of unwritten rules. If, for example, you were to write something critical of a player, you can expect to ride the bench for a while. That’s what happened to Deford when he wrote a very critical article about Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain.

And so, when Jerry West told Deford that Chamberlain wanted him to leave the locker room the day after the article ran, he wasn’t too surprised—and Deford did leave. But for a writer who’s always been more interested in athlete’s personal story than his stats, Deford knew he could never stick to the beat.

So instead, for more than 50 years, DeFord has painted detailed, unvarnished portraits of sports larger-than-life personalities. His byline first appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1962—and remains a fixture of the iconic sports magazine. Deford’s explored virtually every medium to tell his stories, including weekly commentaries on NPR’s Morning Edition.

He's spent a half century in the business and, it seems, the clock is still running on his historic career. His new memoir, Over Time, is therefor aptly titled as Deford’s career has certainly surpassed regulation.

He joins Steve Edwards on Afternoon Shift to share stories from his vast store of experiences.

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