Award-winning journalist Frank Deford has been covering the wide world of sports since the 1960s, most consistently for Sports Illustrated but also for NPR, HBO, Newsweek, the National Sports Daily (which he headed for its short but legendary run), and the book-reading public, in titles like The Old Ball Game and Big Bill Tilden. His newest, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter (Atlantic Monthly Press), is more than a memoir—it’s a gold mine for sports fans, including more than 50 years of insider stories, as well as a thumbnail history of sportswriting perfect for those dreaming of a career like his. What it isn’t, Deford tells Show Daily, is an exercise in self-scrutiny: “I’m a writer. A writer’s memoir is not so much about himself as about the people he has known.”

Those people include everyone from Bob Feller and Ted Williams to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models and Colonel Sanders—yes, that Colonel Sanders. Deford spent just over two years working on Over Time, letting his story “marinate a little bit” and jogging his memory with the help of his wife, Carol, who has been with him since the beginning. “I’ve not been very good about keeping notes, so I had to depend on my memory,” he said. “I would forget things, and my wife would say, ‘You remember such and such—did you put that in?’ ”

Despite his busy day job, Deford has penned some 18 books, 10 of them novels, and doesn’t see them as particularly extracurricular. “I’ve been writing books as long as I’ve been doing anything else,” he says. “It’s a great challenge. It’s a hard thing to do! It’s long! It takes a lot of work. But it’s very fulfilling when it’s finished.”

But, he adds, “it’s always an odd feeling writing a memoir.” Over Time is his second; the first, 1983’s Alex: The Life of a Child, tells the story of his daughter, who died of cystic fibrosis at age eight. “This is, obviously, a much happier occasion,” Deford says. “Because I wrote that memoir, which was so sad and tragic and the worst part of my life, I didn’t have to dwell on that. I had already done that. This was a much happier process, to write about the joys of my life and the people I’ve liked best.”

Indeed, Deford made a conscious decision to skip the people he didn’t like: “I didn’t want to settle scores—it’s too late in the day for that. I haven’t got that many scores to settle anyhow.”

Deford is excited about returning to BEA, which he last attended in support of his 2010 novel, Bliss, Remembered. “It’s wonderful to be in a big building surrounded with all these volumes and people who love them,” he says. “And it’s always fun to autograph. The only bad part is when you see the one long, long autograph line and next to it is the poor author no one has come to see. I wish we could all enjoy great success, because I know how hard it is to write a book.”