Milt Reed

This article was written by Darren Gibson

Milt Reed (BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM)A Marist College star, starting shortstop candidate for the 1914 Philadelphia Phillies, and 1919 Atlanta Crackers swatting savior, future Army lieutenant Milt Reed was a fellow Peach State Ty Cobb look-alike from the 1910s.

Milton D. Reed Jr. was born on July 4, 1890, in Atlanta to Milton Reed Sr., a railroad depot clerk and later Michigan Mutual life insurance agent, and Mary E. Reed. Not much is known about young Milton’s early childhood years around Atlanta.

In 1908 he enrolled at Marist College, a small Catholic college in downtown Atlanta, and played shortstop for two years for the “Marist nine.”1 He batted leadoff for Marist, although he sprained his ankle in the field in a 7-0 win over the Georgia Military Academy, in April.2 In the fall of 1909, Reed attended Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, where he was a Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity member.3 Reports also show that he came up in March 1910 from Atlanta to “play ball” for Dahlonega College (now University of North Georgia), rooming with a professor Niven.4

While playing in college, Reed was discovered for pro ball by scout Joe Bean, who had previously unearthed Eddie Grant.5 In April 1910, he began his professional career playing for the Macon (GA) Peaches of the Class C South Atlantic League, again leading off and playing shortstop.6 After the Sally League ended in late August, Reed joined the Rome (GA) team in the new Class D Southeastern League. During this time, he lived with his mother Mary, grandmother Nancy, and sister Nancy.

Reed kicked off 1911 back at Rome. As of June, the left-handed swatter was hitting .330, with his fielding described as “a revelation.”7 In the same month, Reed and teammate Harrie Reis, a pitcher, were sold to the St. Louis Cardinals for after-season delivery. Reed, along with Jack McAdams and outfielder Jim Clark, was identified among Cardinals manager Roger Bresnahan’s “Crop of 1911 Recruits.”8 Reed and Reis were called up by St. Louis on September 14 after the Rome season ended.9

On September 19, Reed, all 5’9” and 150 pounds of him, would have his one and only at-bat with the Cardinals. Down 8-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Bresnahan summoned Reed to pinch hit against Hub Perdue and the Boston Rustlers. Reed popped up to catcher Johnny Kling. Gene Dale, also making his debut, replaced Reed in the ninth spot starting off the top of the sixth. The Cardinals somehow came all the way back for a 13-12 victory, for Harry Camnitz’s only win in the majors. Ed Donnelly, who surrendered four runs in the bottom of the ninth for the Rustlers, coincidentally was also making his debut.

In the spring of 1912, the Springfield Senators of the Class B Three-I League paid $500 to St. Louis for Reed’s services. He was set to be traded to Decatur in July, but his hot hitting was “making the fans crazy,” thwarting the transaction.10 Toward the end of the 1912 season, the “prodigal” Reed, after six weeks of negotiations, was sold by Springfield to the Davenport (IA) Prodigals, also of the Three-I League, for the same $500 price tag.11 The deal had been held up until the Senators had clinched the pennant, even though Springfield was in desperate need of money. It was said of Reed that, “as he stands at the platter he very much resembles Ty Cobb.”12 He immediately assumed the shortstop job for the Prodigals, and was handed the nickname “Rebel” for his Dixie roots in Georgia.

Reed started the 1913 campaign back in Iowa. In June, Davenport, now dubbed the Blue Sox, sold “Rebel” Reed to Philadelphia for $2,500, to report in August.13 At the time this was the highest price ever secured for a Three-I player.14 Reed had been discovered by William “Cap” Neal, former Blue Grass League president and now a Phillies scout. Neal was in Peoria evaluating first baseman Walter Holke. However, according to Neal, “I saw eighteen players out there…but there was only one of them who was playing great baseball, and that was this boy Reed.”15 Neal thought he had “the greatest shortstop in the bushes.”16 As of June 21, Reed had led off the last 30 games by getting on base in 26 of those games.17 On August 12 he collected five hits to climb above the .300 mark, at .301. Unfortunately, in his final game for the Blue Sox, he went 0-for-4, to fall to .299,18 before hopping on a train to Philadelphia.

Reed made his Phillies debut two days later, on August 16, entering the game as a replacement for starting shortstop Mickey Doolin, and going 0-for-2 in an 8-3 defeat to the Chicago Cubs. He didn’t start any games, but was a solid 5-for-13 (.385) in his first two weeks. The Phillies finished in second place, at 88-63, yet 12 ½ games behind the New York Giants.

In January 1914, “Rebel” Reed re-signed with Philadelphia.19 Doolin jumped to Baltimore of the Federal League, meaning that the Phillies shortstop position was in play. Unfortunately, Reed didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Dummy Murphy, making his major league debut, was the opening day shortstop for the Phillies. After nine games, veteran Sherry Magee took over, until early July when the Phillies traded for Jack Martin, in his last major league season, who manned shortstop most of the remainder of the year. Reed appeared in 22 games (17 starts) at shortstop, making eight errors, and hit .206.

Optioned to Columbus of the American Association,20 he was promptly ejected from one of his first games.21 He was summoned back to Philadelphia in September, making six starts at shortstop over the final two weeks of the season. At the end of the 1914 season, Philadelphia traded infielders Reed and Murphy to Portland of the Class AA Pacific Coast League for Dave Bancroft. It was suggested that Portland intended to use Reed in the outfield, asserting that his “hands are so small that he has difficulty in grabbing bounders.”22 However, Reed refused to report out west, preferring to play in the south or the east,23 and asked the Phillies to change the trade.

When Philadelphia refused, Reed jumped to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the rival Federal League, departing in March for Brown’s Wells, Mississippi, Brooklyn’s spring training site.24 Manager Lee Magee announced that Reed, a lifetime shortstop, would be placed at second base for the Tip-Tops.25

But there’s always more to the story. Another theory as to why Reed jumped from the Phillies organization to the Federal League was proffered in this article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

An inside reason for the hop of Milton Reed, the former Philly shortfielder, came out today when he told how Red Dooin had broken his nose while fooling in the clubhouse after a game. It seemed that Dooin had been riding the kid and changing him from one position, after he was going good, to another, and the climax came when one day the two men started to hit each other with wet towels. It went all right until Reed stung Dooin a little harder than the then manager of the Phillies liked, and Red swung on Reed. The fiery Dooin flared up so quickly that Reed had little chance to duck, and Dooin caught him on the nose, and broke it. Naturally, the boy got sore, as did his nose, but he said nothing until the opportunity to jump to Brookfeds came.26

By mid-April, Philadelphia was threatening to take Reed to court. The transgression? Reed had been given $300 as an advance on the trade to Portland, but he never repaid the amount after refusing to report.27 By late April, Reed was turned back by Brooklyn president Robert Ward to the Phillies, a temporary bit of détente between the two opposing leagues. Reed was then instructed to head west to the Pacific Coast League if he wanted to continue playing in Organized Baseball.

Reed reported to Portland, but soon was stricken with a serious illness. In fact, there were reports of him being “in very bad condition at the present time and…not expected to live.”28 He underwent a throat operation in Portland29 to remove a “bad abscess on his neck.”30 Fortunately, Reed recovered, but, at his request, he was released by Portland on June 16.31 He planned to return to Georgia. But he had a change of heart, remaining on the West Coast and signing with the Oakland Oaks of the PCL. The early returns from Oakland were that “he hasn’t hit a lick.”32 By late July, he seemed “hopeless at short…with his performance yesterday…everything it should not have been.”33 In August, Reed headed home, signing with the local Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association.34 On August 28, “the Atlanta boy, made his debut at short for the locals and gave evidence of being a valuable acquisition.”35 Unfortunately, he hit but .170 for the Crackers in 29 games.

At the turn of the year, the local scribes turned on Reed, as well as incumbent shortstop Rivington Bisland, lobbying for new manager Charlie Frank to jettison the two, which is exactly what occurred. Nonetheless, Reed landed a job manning second base for the Denver Grizzlies of the Class A Western League. In April, on a Grizzlies road trip in Topeka, Kansas, he had a visitor from Georgia: his traveling insurance salesman father Milton Reed Sr. However, Milton Jr. was laid up with an injury at the time, so the father didn’t get to see his son play.36 Junior hit .311 for Denver in 60 games, but still was sent on option in June to the Cedar Rapids Rabbits of the Class D Central Association, where the scouting report was that Reed had “speed to burn and is able to hit near the .300 mark.37 He hit .311 in 76 games for Cedar Rapids (listed as just ‘Reed’ on

Heading into 1917, Reed was sold to the Mobile Gulls,38 Reports were that he was “too light for the job.”39 Sadly, the Reed home in Atlanta was destroyed by a large fire in May.40 Around the same time, Reed was literally shocked by lightning coursing through a wire behind a Chattanooga dugout during a road game.41 During the year, he completed his draft registration, stating he was a private in the Georgia State Militia for a full year. He intended to apply for a commission in the officers’ reserve corps. He hit .254 in 135 games for the Gulls before departing for army service in the ambulance corps in August.42 He was one of the first Atlantans to enlist.43He and teammate Walt Golvin, who entered the Navy, were the first Southern Leaguers to enter the service.44

By the turn of the new year, Reed was admitted to the officers’ training camp. It was at first announced that no ambulance men would be admitted, but Reed and four of his comrades, including White Sox catcher Joe Jenkins and former St. Louis Browns catcher Tim Bowden, met the requirements so fully that an exception was made in their cases.”45 In the Army he played for the Camp Gordon team before he was sent to France with the 29th Infantry.

Atlanta Constitution sports writer W. Leslie Rawlings had seen Reed at Camp Gordon and yearned for Reed to fill out the Crackers outfield for 1919.46 As of May 1919, however, Reed was still enlisted, and manned shortstop now for the Camp Benning squad.47 But in July he received a 20-day furlough and signed for that period. He made the most of it, hitting .386 during this short period.48 On July 16 he went 4-for-6, with the game-winning double in the bottom of the 14th inning, to beat Chattanooga49 Reed fondly recalled this stretch:

“It was funny about that,” said Reed. “Down in Mobile there was a [fan] who never missed a game. I had been gone for two years. When I came back, we played in Mobile. I didn’t get a hit. After it was over this [fan] came to me and said, “Mister Reed, you ain’t swinging like you did when you was here before. Choke up that bat some.” “I did it and they couldn’t get me out.”50

Reed returned to the Army on July 27, but his bat had played a part in helping the Crackers take the 1919 pennant.

By June of 1920, 29-year-old Reed was honorably discharged from the Army. It was written that “several clubs have been hot on his trail since it was learned that he was soon to doff his army bars and pants.”51 Manager Bob Higgins was hoping to recruit Reed for his Winder team in northeast Georgia52 in the upstart and rogue Million Dollar League.53 Reed signed with Winder on June 9. He was so well known in the Peach State that “to introduce Milton Reed to the Georgia fans would be like explaining who Babe Ruth was to a Polo Grounds habitue.”54 However, there was one problem: Reed was still officially property of the Mobile franchise. Regardless, an agreement was reached, and Reed played third base for Winder.55

In 1921, Reed signed with the Charleston Pals of the Class B South Atlantic League.56 He played 30 games, batting only .231, with a woeful .814 fielding percentage, based on 11 errors at third base (again listed only as “Reed” on In June, he was traded by to Lakeland of the Class C Florida State League, where he hit .321. But the story on the season for the fourth-place squad was the managerial carousel:

Lakeland in the Florida State League takes the cake in one respect anyway. The club has had five baseball managers so far this season. Harry Swacina started the season as pilot; he gave way to Joe Wall, who lasted but a few days (before falling ill and returning to New York57). Swacina then resumed charge, but surrendered the reins soon to Percy Wilder. Percy gave way to Infielder Zimmerman and now Milton Reed succeeds Zimmerman.58

Apparently, manager-infielder William Zimmerman and third baseman Lew Groh were arrested for drunkenness at a party at the home of a Lakeland fan. Both were fined and suspended indefinitely; Reed assumed the reins.59

In 1922, Reed was in Atlanta’s spring training, but manager Roy Ellam was not impressed and Reed was not tendered a contract. The local scribe wondered “why his services should prove distasteful to the Atlanta management.60 But Reed shook it off and played semipro ball, and the telephone directory listed him as being involved in real estate.

In Reed’s post-baseball career, he was a southeast wholesale rep for Hudson Motors, then a car salesman for the John Smith Co. In 1928, Milton, 38 years old, married 22-year-old Nell Elleston, who was born in Kansas. In 1930, Milt and Nell resided in Buckhead, just outside Atlanta, with mother Mary and grandmother Nancy living with them. Milt and Nell divorced in the early part of the decade.

In 1937, Atlanta Crackers president Earl Mann and current Cracker player Eddie Moore (whom Reed met in 1922 when Milton was attempting a comeback) and others paid a visit to Reed, who was seriously ill with “stomach trouble,” and other patients, at the naval hospital in Atlanta, where they all enjoyed recalling Reed’s brief but spectacular 1919 season.61

Reed passed away on July 27, 1938, at age 48, at Base Hospital #48 in Decatur after a long illness battling a retroperitoneal sarcoma (tumor), and is buried at Crest Lawn Memorial Park in Atlanta. Two years later, Reed’s mother Mary presented the large American flag from Milton’s funeral to Board Number 8, part of the Fifth Ward of greater Atlanta, to posthumously honor Lieutenant Reed.62



This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.



1 Dick Jemison “Two Promising Players” Atlanta Constitution, March 13, 1909: 4.

2 “Marist Downs G.M.A. Nine” Atlanta Constitution, April 25, 1909: 7.

3 “Frats Initiate Many New Men” Atlanta Constitution, September 27, 1909: 9.

4The Dahlonega Collegian”, April 1, 1910: 42.

5 Jack Troy “All in the Game” Atlanta Constitution, March 5, 1939: 19.

6 “New Shortstop Now Playing Here” Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), September 8, 1912: 18.

7 “’Back Talk’ Earns Hauser Suspension” (St. Louis, Missouri) Post Dispatch, June 10, 1911: 6.

8 “Bresnahan’s Crop of 1911 Recruits” Post Dispatch, August 13, 1911: 19.

9 “Pitchers Annis and Baker Will Not Join Cardinals This Year” Post Dispatch, September 15, 1911: 6.

10 Herald and Review (Decatur, Illinois) July 23, 1912: 4.

11 “Milton Reed is Now a Prodigal” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), September 4, 1912: 11.

12 Daily Times, September 4, 1912: 11.

13 “It’s a Way with Him” Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), June 22, 1913: 17.

14 “Atlanta Writer Pulls for Reed” Daily Times, June 30, 1913: 13.

15 “Infielder Reed Also Advances” Daily Times, June 19, 1913: 13.

16 Quad City Times, June 19, 1913: 7.

17 “Friendly Fanning” Quad-City Times, June 22, 1913: 18.

18 “Baseball Briefs for Busy Bugs” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), August 15, 1913: 15.

19 “Signs Contract with Phillies” Daily Times, January 24, 1914: 15.

20 Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, July 14, 1914: 18.

21 “Rebel Reed Put Off Field” Daily Times, July 20, 1914: 9.

22 “Rebel Reed Goes Back to Minors” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), December 31, 1914: 11.

23 “Milton Reed Will Not Play on Coast” Atlanta Constitution, March 4, 1915: 9.

24 “Milton Reed, Local Ball Player, Jumps to Federal League” Atlanta Constitution, March 6, 1915: 9.

25 “Milton Reed, Tip Tops’ New Second Baseman” Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), March 22, 1915: 10.

26 “Milton Reed Tells Story of How Dooin Broke His Nose” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 8, 1915: 18.

27 “Milton Reed Will Be Taken into Court by Philadelphia Club” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), April 15, 1915: 12.

28 Knoxville Sentinel, June 16, 1915: 14.

29 “Expected Happens to Reed” Oregon Daily Journal (Portland), June 18, 1915: 10.

30 “Reed Starring for Denver Club” Oakland (California) Tribune, April 29, 1916: 8.

31 “Baseball Notes” San Francisco Examiner, June 18, 1915: 13.

32 Oakland Tribune, July 9, 1915: 16.

33 “Notes” San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 1915: 6.

34 “Milton Reed Will Sign with Locals” Atlanta Constitution, August 26, 1915: 9.

35 “Kelly’s Farewell Game a Victory” Atlanta Constitution, August 29, 1915: 3.

36 “Notes” Topeka (Kansas) State Journal, April 27, 1916: 3.

37 “New Players are Billed for Bunnies” Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), June 23, 1916: 8.

38 “Gulls Buy Reed” Birmingham (Alabama) News, March 20, 1917: 10.

39 Les Rawlings “Gulls Weakest Team in League” Atlanta Constitution, April 20, 1917: 12.

40 “Milton Reed and Mobile Players are Shocked by Lightning” Tennessean (Nashville) May 23, 1917: 14.

41 Tennessean, May 23, 1917: 14.

42 “Milt Reed, Former Davenport Player, Joins the Colors” Quad-City Times, August 19, 1917: 15.

43 “Final Rites Held for Milton Reed” Atlanta Constitution, July 29, 1938: 4.

44 “Goes to the Navy” Augusta Chronicle, August 3, 1917: 6.

45 “Money Lenders are Barred at Camp Gordon” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 9, 1918: 12.

46 W. Leslie Rawlings “Boy Howdy!” Atlanta Constitution, April 25, 1919: 17.

47 “Camp Benning Nine Here on Saturday” Atlanta Constitution, May 23, 1919: 14.

48 Ralph McGill “Back in ’19 Milton Reed Hit .600 for Crackers” Atlanta Constitution, September 1, 1937: 10.

49 “Milton Reed’s Double Ends Contest Between Sheehan and Morrison” Atlanta Constitution, July 13, 1919: 3.

50 McGill.

51 “Milt Reed is Signed by Winder” Atlanta Constitution, June 10, 1920: 15.

52 “B. Higgins Will Have Good Team” Atlanta Constitution, June 8, 1920: 12.

53 For an fascinating writeup of the Million Dollar League, please see Lewis Smith “The Champions of the Million Dollar League” post, September 12, 2012.

54 Atlanta Constitution, June 10, 1920: 15.

55 “Winder and Thomson Battle to a Draw” Augusta Chronicle, August 12, 1920: 5.

56 “Pals Sign New Third Sacker” Charlotte Observer, March 27, 1921: 14.

57 “Joe Wall, Lakeland, Fla. Manager; Home for Rest” Standard Union (Brooklyn, New York), May 26, 1921: 14.

58 “Has Had Five Managers” Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), July 9, 1921: 8.

59 “Lakeland Boss is in Trouble” Tampa Tribune, June 28, 1921: 10.

60 “Reed Turned Town Cold” Atlanta Constitution, March 23, 1922: 13.

61 McGill.

62 “Board No. 8” Atlanta Constitution, October 26, 1940: 4.

Full Name

Milton D. Reed


July 4, 1890 at Atlanta, GA (USA)


July 27, 1938 at Decatur, GA (USA)

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