William Joseph Keating:
Stableboy to Champion Sprinter

William Joseph Keating (Sept. 13, 1888 – Feb. 8, 1981). The son of Irish immigrants, Keating was a champion sprinter for the Irish-American Athletic Club, a member of the New York City Police Department and the Ninth Coast Artillery Regiment of the U.S. National Guard.

Keating was born in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania, one of nine children. At an early age he decided he did not want to spend his life below ground as a coal miner, and moved to New York City at the age of 12 or 13. He lived and worked with his uncle Elliot on the West Side of Manhattan, working as a stableboy, on the condition that he attend school.

A few years later, at the age of seventeen, Keating took first place in the 100-yard dash at the third annual revival of the Tailtin games held at Celtic Park in 1905.

In 1907, competing for the Irish-American Athletic Club, Keating won the National Amateur Athletic Union Junior 220- yard championship, with a time of 22.2 seconds. In 1908 he won both the 100-yard and 220-yard Metropolitan AAU championships and the Senior National 220-yard championship. In 1909 and '10, Keating won the Indoor championship titles for the 75-yard event.

In 1910, Keating and fellow Irish-American Athletic Club member William Slade set the first indoor record in the three-legged 90-yard dash, with a time of 10.2 seconds. Also in 1910, competing as a member of the Ninth Coast Artillery Regiment, Keating tied the Military Athletic League’s record in the 100-yard dash with a time of 10.2 seconds, equaling the record set in 1909 by his coach, Irish-American Athletic Club star-athlete, Lawson Robertson. His 1910 Hassan Cigarettes trading card called him “without doubt one of the best sprinters in the United States.”

On April 21, 1911, at the 15th Annual Military Championships, held at the Twenty-second Regiment Armory, Keating won the 220 yard race, in a time of 24 seconds, competing as a member of the 9th Artillery Regiment.

After retiring from the NYPD, Keating worked for 20 years as a security guard for the Frick Museum – from 1941, until he retired in 1961. He was survived by his second wife Anne (nee Minihan) of County Clare, a son Michael and a daughter Mary.

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W.J. Keating 1910 Hassan Cigarettes trading card.
Portrait of Patrolman William Joseph Keating in uniform, date unknown. Courtesy of Keating's daughter Mary, and the New York City Police Museum.

NEW CHAMPIONS IN ATHLETIC WORLD; Many Title Holders Defeated at Metropolitan Association A.A.U. Games; New York Times, September 13, 1908.

SOLDIER ATHLETES REFUSE TO RUN; New York Times, April 10, 1910.

NEW WORLD'S TIMES IN DOMINCAN MEET; Irish-American Athletes Break Old Records for Two Ninety-Yard Events. New York Times, May 3, 1910.

Personal biographical information for this page is from an interview with William J. Keating's daughter, Mary McAuvic, conducted by the Winged Fist Organization in July of 2009.