The need to know, and the quicker the better, has gone through an evolution from Pony Express and telegraph right up to our Twitter generation when hand-held devices now bring almost instantaneous news.

It was 100 years ago this month when the Boston Red Sox faced the New York Giants. That World Series match-up had particular interest for local baseball fans. Lewiston’s favorite son Bill Carrigan, stand-out catcher for the Red Sox, was playing and there was an exceptional thirst for swift reporting. Within the technological limitations of 1912, an innovation of journalism gave the Lewiston fans their news flashes with remarkably little delay.

For the eight-game series, the Lewiston Evening Journal provided play-by-play reports on a billboard-size chalkboard. Crowds packed Park Street throughout the game as details of every inning came in.

The first-game scene was described as follows:

“From 2 p.m., when the game opened, to 4:11 when the ‘flash’ came . . . ‘Boston Wins’ . . . the street was full, and this in spite of the cold winds that blew around the corner.”

The news story said, “The board was placed on the wall above the level of the second floor of the Journal building on the Alley side. Below it is a stout platform. On this is a table with a desk telephone set. A young man sits at the phone, a head piece on his head and the wire open. The other end of the phone line is in the office of the telegraph editor. As fast as the instruments tick off a play (in Morse code transmission) the operator calls it into the phone. At the board end the young man repeats it to Artist Stone (an illustrator employed by the paper) who immediately chalks the news on the board, while the crowd yells or groans as the case may be.”

Every play was recorded on the bulletin board within 45 seconds after it happened on the Polo Grounds in New York City, the report said. It was noted that the bulletin board method had never been used up to that time east of Boston, “and only by one or two of the largest papers in that city.”

A photo captured the street scene of shoulder-to-shoulder men . . . all men . . . who were following the first game.

“The crowd decorates the fire escapes on the buildings at the opposite side of the alley. These choice seats go early. Then they climb, if possible, to the top of the little office of the railroad company. After these vantage points have been taken they move out and fill the alley. Gradually, as the game starts and the interest grows, they extend out across the street and then the teamsters and the motormen do some strong talking, for it means care is needed to get through the throng.”

The story notes that it is a good-natured crowd, and when the name of Carrigan comes up, “bedlam is let loose, for this is a Carrigan town.”

At one point, the article said, “The door of the coal office opens, a young lady in brown dashes out, gets a look at the board, claps her hands and then out comes her boss.

“Guess I got to tie her,” he said. “She won’t do a thing while this game is on.”

The excitement continued to mount daily. In addition to the fans on the street for the second game, the newspaper’s four phone lines were busy right through the game with callers wanting the latest score. The manager of the Lewiston office of the New England Telephone Co. said no private branch exchange in Maine ever received so many calls in a single afternoon. He estimated 2,000 calls.

The crowd stayed until late in the afternoon, and the phone calls increased. Then, the report announced, “Score 6 to 6 in the 11th inning. Game called on account of darkness.” Communication wasn’t the only challenge of those early days of major league baseball. Lights for night games were still a thing of the future.

The Boston Red Sox would go on to win that 1912 World Series and Bill Carrigan would come home to Lewiston for a gigantic celebration. Two years later, Babe Ruth would be a Red Sox team member, and the Red Sox would win another World Series in 1918. Then, in 1919, Babe Ruth would be traded to the New York Yankees. It would be 86 years before Red Sox fans could celebrate another World Series victory.

Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to [email protected]


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