Edward J. McMullen, 74, ex-jockey who later worked as press box steward

April 06, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Edward J. McMullen, a former jockey who was the steward at racecourse press boxes, died Monday of kidney failure at Greater Laurel Hospital. He was 74 and lived in Laurel.

In his near 30 years as press box steward at Pimlico, Laurel, Bowie and Timonium, he offered racing writers his observations on the sport he had known since his teen-age days as a rider. He brewed the morning coffee and made sure the crab soup had plenty of meat in it. There is an Eddie McMullen Pub named in his honor at Pimlico's press box.

"He epitomized the best of Maryland racing in its heyday, when there were real individuals at the track," said Ross Peddicord, former Sun racing reporter. "He was more like a den father to all who worked the press corps. He put a wonderful face on racing to the nation at Preakness time."

"He made us a little bit smarter than we were because he knew so much about racing," said Charles Lamb, retired racing reporter for the old News American. "Eddie was a gem."

`Eddie was one of the sweetest guys I've ever known in my life," said Snowden Carter, retired Maryland Horse editor. "He couldn't have been steadier and nicer. He was interested in everything connected with horse racing."

"My father said he saw many a sportswriter show up in a Mercedes and go home on a Greyhound," said his son, Kevin Timothy McMullen, who lives in Hillsborough, N.C. "My father hadn't made a bet in 30 years. He grew up in the Depression, and he knew the value of 10 pennies."

Family members said he had strong religious convictions and opposed racing on Good Friday.

Born in Fall River, Mass., he was a graduate of St. Ann's parochial school. He started riding when he was 16. Three of his brothers were also jockeys.

When he retired in 1991, an Evening Sun profile described him: "[H]e weighs 119 pounds, not much more than he did as a young jockey who rode such horses as Black Canasta and Fire Fox at local tracks nearly 40 years ago. He later became a trainer and then in 1962 McMullen switched from the care and feeding of racehorses to the care and feeding of racing writers."

"Ever since he was solicited to help run the press box on Preakness Day in 1962, McMullen has passed on his knowledge of racing - gleaned from the hands-on experience of riding and training and hotwalking - to the press corps. He has honed his diplomatic skills to satisfy the demands of the most egomaniacal writers, especially during the Preakness media circus."

When he started riding in the 1940s, he recalled in the 1991 interview, racing was less sophisticated - and rougher. He remembered being pulled off his mount by another jockey during a Rockingham Park race. He broke both his legs in a spill at Waterford Park, W. Va. On another occasion, another jockey broke his nose with a riding crop.

"That was before video patrol cameras, and the jocks got away with a lot of rough riding," he said.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Laurel, where he had been a member for 60 years.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Angelina Oryll; two other sons, Edward O. McMullen of Rockville and Patrick Joseph McMullen of Laurel; two brothers, the Rev. Roger McMullen of Somerset, Mass., and William A. McMullen of Brandon, Fla.; a sister, Mabel LaMieux of Somerset; and five grandchildren.

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