By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
He was a pivotal figure in baseball circles in the Upper Ottawa Valley spanning more than four decades.
Clair Seeley, a respected coach and general manager of the Renfrew Red Sox, has moved on. He died June 2 at Hospice Renfrew after a long battle with skin cancer. He was 88. He leaves behind Esther, his wife of 62 years, and children Cheryl, Kim, Rob and Ritchie.
When the Douglas Expos of the South Renfrew Senior Baseball League folded following the 1970 season due to lack of players, Seeley took notice. He recruited a few of those players for his 1971 team down the road in Renfrew in another league. Two of those recruits were myself, a 20-year-old third baseman, and my older brother Lawrence, an outfielder.
We hung around for a few seasons, helping Seeley’s Sox win a number of North Renfrew Senior Baseball League championships.
The 1971 team floundered a bit but by 1972, it flourished under Seeley’s guidance. The Red Sox won three consecutive NRSBL championships from 1972-74, a squad that included former pros Jack Vooght and Gerry Lepine, who pitched at rookie-class Bluefield in the Baltimore Orioles system, both splendid pitchers and hitters.
Rounding out our powerhouse clubs from that era were players such as pitcher/catcher John McEachen shortstop Andre Bergeron, who came over from Bryson, Que., second baseman Cliff McGrimmon, infielder Doug Lavallee, outfielders Pat Enright and Doug Lynch and another brother of mine, Jim, an outfielder, who moved to the Renfrew area in 1973 after playing in Simcoe, Ont. for a number of years.
Later on, Seeley would be instrumental in forming the Vintage Baseball Association of Ontario for players no longer playing competitive senior ball. During most of his adult life, he was a long-time area bird-dog scout for the Cincinnati Reds, his favorite team.
Seeley was born in Brockville in 1926 and was raised by his aunt Jennie and uncle Percy Lockerbie. He attained his bachelor of arts degree from Montreal’s McGill University and a Master’s degree in education from the University of Ottawa. He moved to Renfrew in 1954, becoming a teacher, principal and superintendent in the Renfrew County Board of Education system.
Not only was he involved with baseball but Seeley was instrumental in other community projects such as raising funds for Ma-Te-Way Park, which became home to the Red Sox after they departed the Renfrew Fairgrounds.
Seeley was a grandfather to Craig (Justine) and Kirk Dillon, Josh and Trevor Seeley, Hannah and Keltie Wijsman and Jason Seeley and a great-grandpa to Brody, Nash and Duggan Dillon and Samira and Liam Seeley.
He made a lifetime contribution to the public school system as a teacher, principal, superintendent, trustee and director of education. His zest for life, optimism, kindness, gentlemanly ways, and mentorship have left a lasting effect on many.
A private church service will be held.
Donations to Hospice Renfrew or Trinity St. Andrew’s United Church in Renfrew would be welcomed.
A visitation will be held June 5 at McPhail and Perkins Funeral Home in Renfrew from 4-7 and a Bottom of the Ninth Celebration of Life will be held at the RCAF Wing Lounge Saturday from 6-to-8 PM.