Journalist, historian Kelly dies
|Joe Kelly was a prominent fixture at the Maryland tracks for decades
(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
The Maryland racing community lost one of its most prominent members when
award-winning journalist and racing historian Joseph B. Kelly passed away Monday
at Stella Maris Rehabilitation and Hospice after a short battle with cancer. He
was 94 years old.
A lifelong resident of Baltimore, Joe Kelly covered horse racing for nearly
He began his career at The Baltimore Sun in the 1940s then moved to
the now-defunct Washington Star in 1955 where he spent the next 26 years
covering racing. He won a national honor from the Thoroughbred Racing
Association for a story about 1968 Kentucky Derby winner Dancer's Image, a
Maryland bred and the only Derby winner to be disqualified from the top spot
because of a medication violation discovered in a post-race test.
Kelly is also the only two-time winner of Pimlico's Old Hilltop Award for
excellence in horse racing coverage, winning in 1979 and 2000.
"He is a true representative of the greatest generation and always someone
you could turn to for historical information," Pimlico and Laurel announcer Dave
Rodman said. "He was eager to share stories about Maryland racing, especially
the Preakness. Nobody loved Pimlico more than Mr. Kelly, who continued to drive
to the track almost every day. Coming to the races kept him very sharp. He loved
to talk about the horses and handicap the races."
On October 30, 1947 he was part of Baltimore's first live remote television
broadcast on WMAR-TV, when Kelly called the fifth and sixth races at Pimlico
with his then colleague Jim McKay.
After retiring from the newspaper business, Kelly worked as a track publicist
at Laurel, became the founding publicity director for the Maryland Million in
1986 and was Pimlico's historical consultant until his death.
"He truly was racing's man for the ages and a real gentleman in the mold that
exists no more," added former Pimlico and Laurel owner Karin De Francis.
Kelly's funeral will be held at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in
downtown Baltimore at 11 a.m. (EST) Friday morning with a visitation period
beginning at 9:30.
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