Writer Deford Takes TV Documentary to Pimlico

(from Pimlico release)
Frank Deford, one of the most honored sportswriters in the country, was at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday, shooting part of an ESPN documentary about the Baltimore native's life and work.

A three-man crew arrived in the morning to tape an interview with former Pimlico general manager Chick Lang, then shot stand-ups during the race day.

"My sweetest memories are of the racetrack and particularly of Pimlico," said Deford, who was a staff writer at Sports Illustrated from 1962 through 1989. "I identify myself as a kid with racing as much as I did with the Orioles and Colts. I used to sneak out to the track while in high school and hung out at the track at a very young age."

Neil Leifer, the award winning photographer that worked with Deford at Sports Illustrated, is producing the documentary. The 90-minute special is expected to air on the ESPN networks next spring.

"Certainly this is not your typical fare, but ESPN is smart enough to know that occasionally these work and they have done some really wonderful documentaries," said Leifer. "I'm really excited about this project. The documentary is made up of nine stories, including Bill Bradley, Arthur Ashe, Colts, Orioles and Pimlico, as well as (Deford's) days growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s."

"One of the pieces they are concentrating on is Chris McCarron, who I featured as a bug boy in the early 1970's," said Deford. "He actually rode a horse named Frank Deford. Nathan Cohen, who owned Pimlico at the time, named the horse after me. I'm afraid to say he was a terrible horse. They say he was great in the morning but even McCarron couldn't get a win out of him."

Among his many honors, Deford is a member of the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. Six times his peers voted him "Sportswriter of the Year."

"The greatest event I ever saw was when the Colts beat the Giants in 1958," added Deford. "Nothing will ever touch that.

"My greatest memory of Pimlico was 1953 when Native Dancer won the Preakness. I came with my mom and dad and it was the first big race I'd ever witnessed. It is hard for that memory to ever be topped and I've been here to cover the Preakness many times. I think the fondest memories you have are when you are a kid. I've had a lot of fond memories here."