William Henry Merritt

William Henry Merritt

By Eileen Loucraft

Back in the early days of professional baseball, Lowell produced a star catcher named William “Billy” Merritt. William Henry Merritt was born in Lowell on July 30, 1870 to William and Mary (Cleary) Merritt who were Irish immigrants. He attended Lowell schools and the College of Holy Cross where he excelled as a baseball catcher. He was on the first Holy Cross team to defeat Harvard in 1888.

William Henry Merritt

He was a mainly a catcher but he played many infield positions. He was a pretty good hitter for a catcher. He was 5’ 7” and was a righty batting and throwing.

After college he played semi-pro and professional baseball. His first two years of semi-pro ball were with Mount St James. Then in 1891 he played for the Chicago Colts, 1892 the Louisville Colonels, 1893-1894 Boston Bean Eaters, 1894 Pittsburg Pirates, 1894-1895 Cincinnati Reds, 1895-1897 Pittsburg Pirates, and he finished with the Cincinnati Reds. He spent nine years in the majors – all for the National League.

In 1893 the Boston Bean Eaters won the championship. This was the equivalent of today’s World Series, and Billy Merritt was always considered a world champion.

1893 world champion Boston Bean Eaters. Bill Merritt in center with catcher’s mitt.

After his retirement from playing he was a coach in Calgary, owner of a semi-pro Lowell club in the New England league, and a scout for Boston teams. When he returned from Boston on the train to Lowell he brought a bag of baseballs and would hand them out to kids on the train.

Bill Merritt, top row, second from left.

He died November 17, 1937 at St. John’s Hospital at the age of 65. He was survived by his wife Nellie (Riley) Merritt who he married in 1897, his two sons, Francis Merritt and William Anthony Merritt and four grandchildren William F Merritt, Barbara (Torpey), George Merritt and Margaret (Loucraft). His descendants continue to live in the Greater Lowell area today. We believe that he is the only man from Lowell to have won a world championship in baseball.

8 Responses to William Henry Merritt

  1. PaulM says:

    Excellent post. Thanks for getting this story around. I’d have to check this, but it may be that one son of Lowell baseball great and former high school headmaster and city manager Brian Martin was on the staff of the San Francisco Giants during their most recent championship season. Not a player, but he may have gotten a ring. (To be confirmed…)

  2. Karin Torpey Guthrie says:

    My Mom Barbara Merritt Torpey’s Grandfather. Generations of ball fans & “The Boy’s of Summer” <3

  3. Chaz Scoggins says:

    There’s a chapter on Bill Merritt in my book, “Bricks and Bats,” published by the Lowell Historical Society. He also played for Lowell in the Class B New England League. Playing for the Lowell Tigers in 1901, on May 25 he swatted four doubles in a 10-9, 10-inning victory over Augusta in Gardiner, Me. The ballpark in Augusta had been booked for another event, so the game was played on a makeshift diamond in an open field that had hill in right field, a brook running through center field, and a low stone wall in left field. It was reported that had the game been played in a real ballpark with fences, three of those hits probably would have been home runs. He is the only player in Lowell’s minor-league history to ever hit four doubles in a game. (The book is still available for purchase through the Lowell Historical Society.)

  4. Kara snellman says:

    I love that he was a lefty, I loved his picture so neetly placed with all the familys at my grams … His great great grand daughter kara ann snellman