In this prize winning photo finish of the 1962 Preakness by Joe DiPaolo Jr., Greek Money on the right ridden by Johnny Rotz beats Ridan ridden by Manuel Ycaza (left). (JOE DIPAOLA JR., Baltimore Sun / May 7, 2009)

Joseph A. "Joe" DiPaola Jr., an award-winning Baltimore Sun photographer whose 1962 picture of the controversial nose-to-nose Preakness finish resulted in the suspension of a jockey, died Friday of cancer at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.

The longtime Timonium resident was 91.

The son of a grocery store owner/barber and a homemaker, Mr. DiPaola was born in Baltimore. He was raised on Greenspring Avenue, and later moved to the Reisterstown-Owings Mills area in the early 1940s.

Mr. DiPaola explained in a 1984 article how he began his career at The Baltimore Sun.

"Talked my way on, I guess. I joined the paper as a copy boy in 1937. Made $9 a week, and worked the shift from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.," he said. "I went to high school during the day, and got to like photography so much I hung out with the guys on assignments whenever I could."

In order to compete, Mr. DiPaola wanted to purchase a Speed Graphic camera for freelance photography.

"One time, I told a salesman how much I'd like a Speed Graphic camera, but when he told me they were $200, I just hung my head, because I couldn't afford anything close to that," he said in the interview. "He said, 'Tell you what, Kid. You're so interested, I'll let you have one for $5 a month.'"

Mr. DiPaola was able to sell some of his freelance photography to The Sun.

"I went to a fire on Dolphin Street, the paper used it over six columns on page one, and not long after, they made an opening for me on the staff," he said.

During World War II, Mr. DiPaola enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was stationed in England, where he was a photographer and did strategic bombing surveys of Germany and battle-damage assessments.

Discharged with the rank of master sergeant in 1946, Mr. DiPaola returned to The Sun, where he worked until retiring in 1984.

He covered Orioles and Colts training camps. Hank Bauer, who was the manager of the Orioles, and Mr. DiPaola became close friends.

"Joe was a damn good photographer for a lot of years," said Bob Maisel, former Sun sports editor and columnist. "He was also a character, and there's nothing bad that you can say about Joe DiPaola."

As a general assignment photographer, he took thousands of pictures — presidents and royalty, railroad wrecks and house fires. In addition to The Sun, Mr. DiPaola's work appeared in The Evening Sun and the Sunday Sun Magazine.

A light-hearted man who had a penchant for practical jokes and wisecracks, Mr. DiPaola was well-liked by his newsroom colleagues.

"He definitely kept the department loose. He'd do things such as on a really hot Baltimore summer's day, rather than taking a picture of an egg frying on the sidewalk, Joe would get a horse and photograph it going through a car wash," said Walter M. McCardell Jr., a veteran Sun photographer who retired in 1990.

"Joe was a good all-around photographer. He was both competent and confident," he said.

One of Mr. DiPaola's most famous pictures was the finish with 11 horses down the stretch at the 1962 Preakness, with jockey Manual Ycaza aboard Ridan, the favorite, and Johnny Rotz on Greek Money, who was in the front, barely by a nose.

When Greek Money crossed the finish line, Mr. Ycaza jumped off his mount and claimed foul.