by Andy Fisher
Jim Gordon hired sportscaster John Kennelly in 1976, saying, “He sounds just like the guy on the next stool at the bar, talking about sports.” John stayed as sports director until 1991. Before coming to New York, he was a prominent television sportscaster on WJZ-TV in Baltimore. He died in March 1999, and I wrote this eulogy for his funeral at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Ridgewood, NJ:
I met John Kennelly when he took over my job as morning sportscaster at WNEW-AM in New York. At the time, I was starting down the long road that would eventually lead me to the Catholic Church. It was Lent, and I asked John what he was giving up for Lent. “Yak rides!” he snapped.
His reply startled me a little, but it was pure John Kennelly. No exaggerated piousness for him. No looking gloomy like the hypocrites, but rather humor, and plenty of it.
John was always telling stories, and the joke was usually on himself. We shared the experience of having served in the Army, and John had been a lieutenant in the Military Police. He told about a general who came to inspect his unit one day. Up and down the rows of spotless bunks he walked, saying nothing until he came to John. “Lieutenant,” he said dryly, “the era of the fat cop is over!”
John started his career at a radio station in Wildwood. Like most new announcers — and many veterans, too — he made a few hilarious bloopers. Listeners may have been amused to hear John report one day from “Cape May Cathouse,” which, as it turned out, was the county seat. Later, he identified the ruling body of the county, the Board of Chosen Freeholders, as the “board of frozen cheeseholders.”
He came to New York City to work at Channel 2. One day, walking across 57th Street to the studios, he heard a faraway voice yell, “Hey, Kennedy!” That, of course, was not his name, but again he heard the voice cry out, “Hey, Kennedy!” When he heard it a third time, he turned around, and far above him, on the steelwork of a building under construction, was a hard-hat, looking directly at him. “Hey, Kennedy!” the man yelled. “You stink, and so does Channel 4!” His critic, like many critics, had the facts wrong.
John’s own language may sometimes have been a little rough, his mercy sometimes hard to come by, but I don’t know anyone who truly walked more humbly with his Lord. He loved the Lord with all his heart, and all his soul, and all his mind. He didn’t make a point of telling you that, but if you paid attention, you knew.
I can see his face getting red with embarrassment now as I tell you this. But I know it’s true. And another thing. They say St. Peter holds the keys of the Kingdom, but I’d like to think he’s taking the day off today, and has turned things over to his trusty colleague Patrick. And Patrick is up there, throwing open the doors and shouting, “Welcome home, John!”
With Tom Tracy during a broadcast of “The Coach’s Show.”
With NY Giants Head Coach Bill Parsells during “The Coach’s Show” at Gallagher’s Restaurant following Super Bowl XXV