Presque Isle’s Olympic third baseman
Those of us of a certain age remember Clarence Keegan as the assistant principal of Presque Isle High School (1968-1977). He was the man students had to go see if they were in trouble. In typical self-absorbed teenage style, how many of us ever wondered about Keegan’s life before he was the disciplinarian? And, oh, what an interesting life he led.
Clarence Keegan was born in Easton in July 1915 and later moved to Robinson after the death of his father. There, as a senior, he played baseball, leading his team to their first Aroostook League championship in over a decade.
In 1933, Keegan attended the University of Maine and played baseball there as well. By 1935, he was selected to the Aroostook All-Star team, which later traveled to Bangor to play the Boston Red Sox at Bass Park.
In 1936 at the tender age of 22, he was chosen to play third base for the U.S. Olympic Baseball team, which at that time was an exhibition sport. The 1936 Olympics was groundbreaking in many ways. How fascinating it must have been to be there to see history in the making.
In regards to media coverage, it could arguably be named as the first modern Olympics. It was the first time in Olympic history that a telex was used to send results of the competitions to media outlets. In addition, news reel footage was transported to other European cities by air in dirigibles.
The 1936 Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany. The location was awarded to Germany by the International Olympic Committee before the Nazis came to power. These Olympic games allowed Germany the opportunity to showcase the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler to the world.
Hitler used the Olympics to move his white supremacist agenda forward by prohibiting any Jewish athletes from competing. There were 49 countries represented at the 1936 Olympics with just under 4,000 athletes, only 18 of which were Black. This put the U.S. Olympic team in the spotlight with track star Jesse Owens, a Black athlete. Owens went on to win four gold medals, making him the first American track athlete to do so at one Olympic competition. In doing so, he also threw some shade on Hitler’s concept of the Aryan Nation.
After his return from the Olympics, Clarence Keegan continued his involvement in sports, serving as both a teacher and coach in the area for almost three decades. He taught in Ashland, Mars Hill and Presque Isle. Subjects taught included math, agriculture and driver’s education.
Upon his death in 1977, Keegan was recognized by the Maine State Legislature for his contributions to the community and the State of Maine.
Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.