Opening day in April can mean only one thing – or maybe two things – for sports enthusiasts. It’s either the start of open water fishing or its time to play ball at Fenway Park.

The real opening day at a brand-new Fenway Park was April 20, 1912, and there was a young Lewiston man in attendance that day. He wasn’t there to watch a game; he was there to play.

Bill “Rough” Carrigan was born in Lewiston in 1883 and his athletic prowess in baseball and football blossomed through grade school and Lewiston High School. He went on to Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., where he caught the eye of Boston Red Sox scouts, who signed him as a catcher in 1906.

Carrigan earned his nickname of “Rough” for his stonewall style of blocking the plate, and his square jaw with a Kirk Douglas cleft made him look the part.

On his death in 1969, The New York Times obituary said that he often sat on home plate to block runners, and he once taunted Ty Cobb with, “Come on, you. Steal. I dare you. Just try.”

He was a respectable clutch hitter who batted .296 in 1909 and had a lifetime mark of .257.

Though he was valuable as a Red Sox player, the Lewiston native made his mark in baseball history as a Red Sox manager who led them to World Series victories in 1915 and 1916. He took over leadership of the Bosox on July 15, 1913, when he became the team’s 10th manager in seven seasons. He would have a lot more staying power than his predecessors.

In the remainder of that 1913 summer, Carrigan’s Red Sox won 40 and lost 30, and moved from fifth to fourth place. The next year, he moved the team up to second place, and that was also the year that a skinny kid named George Herman Ruth came from Baltimore to join the Boston team as a left-handed pitcher.

Catchers know how to handle pitchers, and Carrigan mentored and monitored Babe Ruth in his formative years. He even roomed with the devil-may-care Ruth, and another wild young pitcher named Dutch Leonard, to keep them under control in their off-field hours.

In a series of articles he wrote for the Boston Daily Record, Carrigan recalled, “Nobody could have made Ruth the great pitcher and the great hitter he was but himself. He made himself with the aid of his God-given talents. But, breaking in, he had to be disciplined to save him from probably becoming his own worst enemy. And I saw to it that he was disciplined.”

That discipline paid off in the back-to-back championship years. Babe Ruth’s 1915 record was 18-8 in 1915 and a remarkable 23-12 with an earned run average of 1.75 that led the American League in 1916.

The 1915 World Series was against the powerful Philadelphia Phillies under legendary manager Connie Mack. The Phillies won the first game 3-1.

However, the Red Sox took the second game 2-1. That first World Series win for Carrigan was significant for one other reason. It was Oct. 9, 1915, and President Woodrow Wilson was on hand to see the game. It was the first time a president had attended a World Series contest.

The Red Sox finished off the Phillies in 1915 with four straight wins.

In 1916, The Red Sox faced the Brooklyn Dodgers (known then as the Brooklyn Robins), a team with an outfielder named Casey Stengel. The Red Sox won that Series 4-1, as well, and Carrigan even put himself in the game as catcher for game four.

Carrigan retired at the age of 32, returning to Lewiston. He was a successful banker and owner of several movie theaters throughout New England.

He was enticed back to manage the Red Sox again in 1927-29, but he couldn’t lift the team from dismal last-place finishes. It was back to Lewiston after that, where he became president of Peoples Savings Bank.

These stories about Lewiston’s “Rough” Carrigan are just some of the baseball lore related in Will Anderson’s book, “The Lost New England Nine.”


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