“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”
An excellent defensive catcher who provided the Boston Red Sox with above-average offense for his position, Bill “Rough” Carrigan batted .257 in 709 career games, and once finished as high as eighth in the American League in batting average. Behind the plate, the 5-foot-9 175-pounder compensated for his lack of size with sheer toughness. Confrontational by nature, Carrigan rarely backed down from a fight, and usually came out on the better end of his many scraps.
Most sources indicate that William Francis Carrigan was born in Lewiston, Maine, on October 22, 1883, though the 1900 Census places his birth year at 1884. William was the youngest of three children of John and Annie Carrigan, Irish Catholic immigrants who had arrived in the United States prior to the Civil War. According to census records, John supported the family as a deputy sheriff. During his youth, William worked on local farms when not playing sports, and was a star football and baseball player at Lewiston High. After high school, he moved on to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He starred as a football halfback for the legendary Frank Cavanaugh, who was later the subject of a movie (The Iron Major, starring Pat O’Brien) and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. On the diamond Carrigan played for Tommy McCarthy, the baseball star of the 1890s, who converted his young charge from the infield to catcher, a position Carrigan would play the rest of his career.
In the spring of 1906 Carrigan was signed to a Red Sox contract by Charles Taylor, the father of Red Sox owner John I. Taylor. Carrigan joined the struggling Red Sox directly in the middle of the season, immediately catching the likes of Bill Dineen and Cy Young. In this initial trial, he hit just .211 in 37 games, but impressed with his play behind the dish. Sent to Toronto of the Eastern League the next season, he batted .320, and rejoined the Red Sox in 1908. The right-handed-hitting Carrigan was not a feared batsman, hitting just six lifetime home runs, but was soon one of the more respected members of the team. In 1908 he hit .235 as the primary backup to Lou Criger, but assumed the bulk of the innings for the next six seasons after Criger’s departure to the St. Louis Browns. His .296 average in 1909 was the highest of his career, and the eighth best in the league that season.
The well-mannered Carrigan earned the nickname Rough for the way he played. He was a well-respected handler of pitchers, and had a fair throwing arm, but it was his plate blocking that caused Chicago White Sox manager Nixey Callahan to say, “You might as well try to move a stone wall.” On May 17, 1909 he engaged in a famous brawl with the Tigers’ George Moriarty after a collision at home plate, while their teammates stood and watched. He had a fight with Sam Crawford a couple of years later, and maintained a reputation as someone who would not back down from a confrontation.
Fully entrenched as a regular by 1911, Carrigan had a fine season at the plate (.289 in 72 games) before suffering a broken leg on an awkward slide at second base on September 4. He caught the majority of the innings for the 1912 pennant winners, hitting .263, but was hitless in only seven at bats in the Red Sox’ World Series victory that fall.
In early September 1916, Carrigan announced that he would be leaving baseball at the end of the season. He had actually wanted to quit after the 1915 Series, and had so told owner Joe Lannin, but his owner talked him into the one additional campaign. He retired to his hometown of Lewiston and embarked on careers in real estate (as co-owner of several movie theaters in New England) and banking. A few years later he sold his theaters for a substantial profit and became a wealthy man.