Keegan, Clarence (2015)
“On the field one should be intense and aggressive,
off the field one should be fair and understanding.
The game isn’t the most important thing in life. HE is.”
- Clarence Keegan, as recollected by his son C.K. Keegan
“In July of 1936 Les Mann (former major league player) held Olympic team tryouts in Baltimore,
and with the endorsement of Babe Ruth, was able to select a squad from some of the best college ball players in the US. A team of 20 players from various colleges that included Stanford, the University of Nebraska, the Western State Teachers College, the University of Texas, Brooklyn College, USC and others. Clarence Keegan was one of those who was good enough to make the team and start at third base.
While None of these men is a household name they nonetheless performed on the world stage, helping
to advance the game beyond U.S. soil. Some of Clarence Keegan’s items from his Olympic adventure have been on display at the Baseball HOF in Cooperstown.”
- Jim Carter
Clarence Keegan was born in Easton on July 13, 1915 to James and Helena Keegan. While attending high school at Aroostook Central Institute in Mars Hill, he lived with his brother, Frank, who encouraged him to participate in sports and to continue his education. During Clarence’s senior year, 1933, he led the ACI team to their first Aroostook League baseball championship.
In the fall of 1933, Clarence entered the University of Maine at Orono, where he majored in agriculture. Having been an outstanding high school athlete, Clarence decided to play baseball for the Black Bears, and as a sophomore centerfielder in 1935 he led the team in hitting with a robust .366 average. Stats are unavailable for his junior year, but in 1937, his senior year, he hit .362 over the regular season, and after the state playoff series he wound up with a .379 average.
While attending Orono, he played summer ball for the Mars Hill Mountaineers in the northern Maine semi-pro league. In 1933, the Mountaineers tied Caribou for the league title but ended up losing in the championship game. The following year, Clarence had another stellar season at centerfield and at the plate, culminating in his selection to the Aroostook League All-Star team, which played the Houlton Collegians at the Northern Maine Fair. During the 1935 season, he was again selected to the All-Star team, this time playing the Boston Braves in Houlton. The All-Stars later traveled to Bangor to play the Boston Red Sox at Bass Park.
In 1936, Clarence, along with Hubert Shaw of Presque Isle, was invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic baseball team in Baltimore, Maryland. The Presque Isle A.A. played a benefit game against the Aroostook League All-Stars to raise funds for the two players. Clarence’s hitting efforts in the tryouts secured him a spot on the Olympic team. The team set sail for Hamburg, Germany on the SS Manhattan on July 16, 1936, and arrived at their destination a week later. Although baseball wouldn’t become a medaled Olympic sport until 1992, the game gained significant international exposure when two American teams played each other for the first time at the Berlin Olympics. In that exhibition game, Clarence and Shaw’s “U.S. Olympics” team lost to the “World Champions” team by a final score of 6 to 5. Clarence reported to his family that the parade into the Olympic Stadium was the highlight of his experience at the Berlin games.
After playing several exhibition games in England, the Olympic team boarded the SS President Roosevelt and returned home to New York, where they were welcomed with a ticker tape parade and many other festivities. The legacy of Olympic baseball is honored in an exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, which displays several photos of the 1936 team, including one of Clarence Keegan.
Upon his graduation from the University of Maine in 1937, Clarence continued to play semi-pro baseball for Mars Hill, helping to lead the Mountaineers to the Northern Maine League crown in 1938. A year later, he joined the Presque Isle Indians as both a player and coach. He played several positions and ended the season with a .388 batting average. He returned to the Indians the following season, playing centerfield.
Clarence Keegan’s illustrious 28-year teaching career began in 1938 in Ashland, where he taught agriculture and coached basketball until 1942. From 1942 to ‘44 he held similar positions at ACI in Mars Hill. He came to Presque Isle High School in 1945, where he taught math, agriculture, and driver education, and coached JV boy’s basketball. He also took on the formidable task of promoting drug abuse awareness. From 1968 until his death, he was assistant principal at Presque Isle High School.
Clarence Keegan passed away on April 15, 1977, leaving behind his wife of nearly forty years, Madeline. At the time of his death, the Maine State Legislature issued a sentiment recognizing Clarence’s many significant contributions to the local community and the State of Maine.
Clarence played on the 1936 Olympic Team