Former NPR Head Remembered For His Humor, Love Of Baseball.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Frank Mankiewicz used to say back in the 1970s and '80s when I worked for him that he knew how he'd be described in his New York Times obituary - former aide to Robert Kennedy, which he was. He was there the night Senator Kennedy was shot; he was the one who briefed the press.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
FRANK MANKIEWICZ: Senator Robert Francis Kennedy died at 144 a.m. today, June 6, 1968.
SIEGEL: I once protested to Frank that his obituary would in fact include another description of him. As the president of National Public Radio who put the young NPR on the map. Today, one day after Frank's death of heart failure at age 90, we are both proven right. You can check the obituaries of details of Frank's career in World War II, and the law, and the Peace Corps, in politics, journalism, public relations. His career here included the first broadcast of a Senate debate and the launch of Morning Edition. He based NPR's staffer overseas with the BBC in London, that was me. A gaping hole in his last budget ended his tenure with NPR on a sour note, but it didn't end my admiration and affection for him. Frank was one of the most accomplished and entertaining men I have ever known. He loved a good joke. When he was urged to observe the seventh anniversary of this program he got on the paging system and announced, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED is seven years old, if it were a dog it'd be 49. He loved baseball, especially the Cardinals. For several years, he went to spring training, even after he had to admit that it was no longer for the entertainment of his sons Josh and Ben, it was for him. Back in 1981, as NPR's president, he filed an essay from Florida about spring training for sportswriters.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
MANKIEWICZ: In the Florida springtime, the rookies and the veterans get ready for the season to come. But here in the press box it's also training time. The writers and the broadcasters, the traffickers and the most durable cliches of our culture, they're working hard, too, getting ready for the season. The first few days we work with the simple stuff. He came to play. Does he have a jump on the ball? And then, with a few weeks to go, we try for the solid stuff. You'll hear a sure sign of spring as the crocus or the forsythia. This club will go as far as the pitching will take it. And if you're lucky, somebody will say it's a game of inches. They play in the sunshine here in Florida, in the spring, and they play on grass. It excuses almost any verbal excess. For National Public Radio, this is Frank Mankiewicz in St. Petersburg rounding at a midseason form.
SIEGEL: Our condolences to Frank's widow Patricia O'Brien and the rest of the family. Frank Mankiewicz died last night in Washington D.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.