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Emmett Kelly--Dodger

March 19, 2008 | 10:17 am

Emmett kelly
Los Angeles Times file photo

Emmett Kelly, right, in an undated photo, with a mystery guest. The picture was apparently a publicity photo for the Jan. 21, 1962, television program "Project 20," which featured the Clyde Beatty Circus.

By Keith Thursby
Times Staff Writer

It was an unlikely sports story—a clown announcing the end of his connection with the Dodgers.

Emmett_kelly_dodgers02 Emmett Kelly said the Dodgers had failed to renew his contract for the 1958 season. Kelly, a longtime performer with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, was no mere clown act. He had performed on Broadway and in movies and had taken off the 1956 season to serve as the Dodgers’ mascot in Brooklyn. (You can still find Dodger pennants from that era with Kelly’s portrait.)

The Associated Press story noted that Kelly’s "glum face had been a source of laughter to millions of children."

Emmett kelly
Photograph by Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

Emmett Kelly cleans his plate--in this case home plate--during a Dodgers-Braves game on April 15, 1962, for Senior Citizens Day at Dodger Stadium. 

He blamed the Dodgers’ selection of the Coliseum for the decision. He said the team’s first home in Los Angeles was "too big for one clown."

The story said Kelly was returning to his first love, the circus. He died in 1979.

Emmett kelly
Photograph by Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times

Emmett Kelly jokes with an umpire at Wrigley Field in a photo published June 30, 1957. [No, it wasn't "photoshopped." The print was so big that I had to scan it in two sections and paste it together.--lrh]

Los Angeles Times file photo

Emmett Kelly, possibly in Vero Beach, Fla., in a photo dated June 27, 1957.