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.
When Mr. DiPaola returned to the newspaper to develop his picture, he was amazed to see what he had recorded and raced to the sports department.
The photo showed Mr. Ycaza clearly leaning over and arm-locking his elbow into Mr. Rotz's stomach, which the stewards couldn't see. In a subsequent hearing, the Maryland State Racing Commission used Mr. DiPaola's picture, which resulted in Mr. Ycaza's being suspended.
Life magazine made it the picture of the week, and it has appeared in many other publications over the past 50 years.
Mr. Maisel wrote that it "probably hangs in as many bars and homes as any sports action shot ever made."
Mr. DiPaola explained in the 1984 interview that "usually, I'd just shoot the finish in the conventional way, but this time, something told me to go back up the track 30-40 feet and look back. … Truthfully, I didn't know what I had until I developed it, but then all heck broke loose, didn't it?"
Robert K. Hamilton, The Baltimore Sun's photo director, recalled how Mr. DiPaola "showed him the ropes" when he joined the paper in 1983.
"It was my first day on the night shift. He took me to the Calvert House for a beer and a bowl of crab soup — my first," said Mr. Hamilton, with a laugh. "That was Joe in a nutshell. Nothing ever fazed him."
After retiring, Mr. DiPaola put his genial personality to work greeting guests at the old Turf Inn on York Road in Timonium, which was owned by family members.
The longtime Pot Spring Road resident was an avid vegetable gardener and known for his tomatoes.
"We bought a few flats of tomato plants, which we're going to give away in remembrance of Uncle Joe to those who come to the funeral home," said a niece, Susan Stein of Stewartstown, Pa.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Also surviving are three sisters, Angie Y. DiPaola of Hunt Valley, and Margaret DiPaola and Rose Bucklew, both of Timonium; and many nieces and nephews.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun