The Deadball Era was defined by speed and pitching. The best man on the roster had the wheels to leg out infield hits and lash liners past the men on the diamond. In this age of men with rabbit in their blood, speed merchants were a prized commodity and the swiftest were be-knighted with lavish nicknames. Clyde “Deerfoot” Milan was Mercury in a baseball uniform, motoring around the bases with the speed of a frightened gazelle.
A lifelong Washington Senator, Milan perfected the stolen base and often nipped at Ty Cobb’s heels in the theft department – occasionally topping the swift Georgia Peach. Deerfoot was bought by the Senators from Wichita of the Western Association in 1907. Washington was a 100-loss team in 1907 but when they brought up Milan and coupled him with Hall of fame hurler Walter Johnson (a terrific speed and pitching combo) the Senators climbed out of the cellar in 1908.
Clyde broke out in 1910, finishing second to Ty Cobb in stolen bases among AL center fielders with 44. Despite the Senators low finish in the standings, Milan was fifth in runs scored in the junior circuit. In 1911, Milan and Cobb were the only two center fielders in the Major Leagues to score 100 runs. He finished fifth in hits that year and Deerfoot’s 58 steals were good for second in the league – trailing only Cobb.
Milan bested Cobb and the rest of the American League in the stolen base department during the 1912 season. With 88 thefts, Clyde was the top thief in the junior circuit while posting his second straight year of 100 or more runs scored. Milan was in select company, teaming with only Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker as the lone 100 run-scoring center fielders in the AL. Deerfoot finished fourth in MVP voting.
A thief that is never caught oftentimes keeps stealing and Clyde was a cat-burglar who didn’t do hardtime for his thievery. Milan again topped the AL in the stolen base departemnt in 1913 when he pilfered 75 bases. Deerfoot, a pixilating pilferer, banged 174 base hits – second to Tris Speaker among AL center fielders. Milan finished fifth in the stolen base department in 1915 with 40.
His brother Horace joined the Senators in 1917 and Deerfoot showed his kid brother how to operate in fast company. Clyde slapped out 170 hits while brother Horace hit .288 as a reserve. The next year Horace missed the entire season to service in the military during World War I but Clyde, already in his early 30s, was able to play through he fighting. In 503 at-bats during the ’18 season, Deerfoot fanned only 14 times.
After battling an illness in 1919, which limited Deerfoot to 88 games, he rebounded in the first year of The Lively Ball Era by hitting .322 in 1920. But The Lively Ball Era wasn’t the era for speed merchants and Clyde, in his mid 30s, began to lose playing time in 1921. The Senators named him player/manager in 1922 and his Senators finished sixth in the AL in his last year at the highest level. He went on to a lengthy managerial career in the Southern Association, piloting the Memphis Chickasaws, Birmingham Barons and Chattanooga Lookouts.
G 1,981/R 1,004/H 2,099/2B 240/3B 105/HR 17/RBI 617/SB 495/BA .285/SA .353