R.I.P. Art Nielsen, founder Ottawa Canadians
* Art Nielsen who passed on Friday, founded the Ottawa Canadians ball club which produced the luck of RHP Dave MacQuarrie, OF Doug Frobel and INF Phil Franko. .... Sign up for CBN Newsletter
By Bob Elliott
Long before men like Gene Bartolozzi founded Ontario’s first elite team, the Hamilton Blue Jays, in 1996 there were baseball men putting in long hours.
They hit ground balls, raked diamonds, taught players about the game and about life.
And they got results ... not just in the win column.
Like the late Jack Giffin of the Brockville Bunnies, who proudly watched right-hander Wayne Crowder sign with the New York Yankees in 1968 and play for three seasons, right-hander Wayne Amyotte signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1969 and pitched for three seasons, right-hander Joe Leeder signed with the Montreal Expos in 1971 and pitch for four seasons and right-hander Peter Hoy, drafted in the 33rd round from the LeMoyne College Dolphins, by the Boston Red Sox in 1989 and male the majors in 1992.
Three pros in four years ... four in 21 years, including a big leaguer.
And like Art Nielsen, who founded the Ottawa Canadians in the 1960s.
What started out as one Babe Ruth team grew into an organization.
A dominant one.
That one Babe Ruth team grew into two senior teams, two Connie Mack and two Babe Ruth teams in 1978 with the help of Fred Wigney, Jeff MacLean, George Payette, Tom Huffman and Herb Rody.
In the interest of full disclosure we served as a coach under Neilsen in 1978.
Neilsen turned to umpiring in 1979, becoming league president as the Ottawa Senior Interprovincial League enjoyed a period of growth. He returned to coach the Ottawa-Nepean Canadian seniors in 1981.
The players that used to wear all-red uniforms with the stylized ‘C’s’ crest on their chests moved onward and upward:
Right-hander Dave MacQuarrie signed with the Expos in 1974 and was released from triple-A roster of the Cleveland Indians in 1979.
Right fielder Doug Frobel signed out of a try out camp in Utica, N.Y. by Pittsburgh Pirates scout Branch Rickey II in 1978, played 268 games in the majors with the Pirates, the Expos and the Indians before retiring from triple-A Vancouver Canadians in 1989.
How good was Frobel? Well, they named a park, formerly Library Park, after him in Nepean when his 12-year playing career ended.
And shortstop Phil Franko attended John Jay College in New York and signed after his final college game by Minnesota Twins scout Herb Stien walking off the field at Shea Stadium in 1981. Stein was the same man who signed Rod Carew. He played four seasons in the minors and is now a school teacher in Two Rivers, Wisc.
Three pros in six years ... including a big leaguer.
Nielsen, 83, passed away Friday morning in Ottawa after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
There were dozens of others who played for the Canadians and went on in life: Dr. Marc Aubry, Mark Gryba, Conrad Young, Mal Bruce and Tim Hogan.
Darryl Fincham, Jim Kent, Gary Nicholl, Ed Jordan and Chuck McGuire.
Billy Courchaine, Greg McNally, Jake Cole, Chris Harber and Doug Miller.
Steve Shipman, Brian and Rick Frobel, Bob Yanus and Peter Rywak.
Steve Payette, Glen Wigney, Wayne Bonney, Terry Feindel and Phil Scissons.
Pierre Cabana, Tim Rody, Dave Bailey, Vern Adams and Wayne Kerwin.
Scott Ferguson, son Terry Nielsen and 100s of others who played for the Canadians organization.
He was a teacher when not on the diamond or at hockey rinks. He taught elementary school, secondary school and lectured at the State University of New York in Potsdam, NY, as well as serving as principal of a number of schools in the Ottawa area.
Nielsen was the past-president of both the Central Canada Hockey League and the Ottawa Sooners football team.
Friends are invited to visit the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry 315 McLeod Street in Ottawa on Tuesday Jan. 14th, 2-to-4 & 7-to-9 p.m. Memorial service will be held in the Chapel on Wednesday at 1 p.m. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations to Leukemia Society of Canada or CHEO would be appreciated.
Deepest sympathies are extended to his beloved wife Saint Dorothy, three children Terry, Ted and Anna-Marie (Paul), his seven grandchildren Chris, Dan (Charmaine), Tyler, Zachary, Ryan, Jake, Emily and his great-granddaughter Olivia.
Farewell old pal.