He was a super shortstop, as good as I'd seen. He had great range, great hands, and a great arm ... He was also a great person. I loved Roy McMillan.
- Andy Seminick, McMillan's teammate from 1952-1955. McMillan won Gold Gloves each year from 1957-1959, the first three years the prize was awarded
Roy McMillan, the 5 foot, 11 inch, 164 pound Cincinnati Reds shortstop who's highest season batting average was .272, graced the cover of the September 9, 1957 Sports Illustrated, an honor usually reserved for athletes with names like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. It was not a fluke. McMillan, in his ten years with the Reds (1951-1960), had earned the reputation of being the best defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues and the title "Mr. Shortstop." McMillan considered the SI cover "one of the top moments in his career."
Hall of Fame member, Pie Traynor said, "McMillan makes his own bounces, He's the only present-day shortstop who can do that..he can take the ball on the half hop all the time, a very tough play." Leo Durocher hailed Roy as " the best defensive shortstop in the game today." Manager Birdie Tebbets declared, " Roy McMillan is the finest defensive shortstop I've seen in the last 20 years. He's a good run-batted-in man and his hitting is continually improving."
The most amazing story of all is how McMillan was selected by the Reds. He attended, without an invitation, a try-out camp in McKinney, Texas, in 1947 at age 16. The camp was sponsored by the Red's Tyler Texas Minor League franchise and conducted by Red scout Hack Miller. Prior to the tryout camp, McMillan had played in only one baseball game, when he was 10 years old.
His hometown, Bonham, Texas, was a farming center of about 6,000 people. At Bonham High School, Roy was a member of the football, basketball, tennis, and track teams. He played softball on a city squad. He ran the hundred in 10.2 for the track team and could palm a basketball. But for some unknown reason, there was no baseball in Bonham.
At the tryout camp, Roy saw a curve ball for the first time. He fielded hardballs for the first time. Yet Hack Miller saw Roy's sure hands and athletic ability and especially his ability to catch the ball on the half hop instead of dropping back for the easy bounce. He was assigned to the Ballinger, Texas, team in the Class D Longhorn League.
For the next four years Roy played, in order, for Ballinger (1947), Tyler in the Lone Star League (1948), Columbia in the Class-A South Atlantic League (1949) and Tulsa in the Texas League, the Red's top Minor League team (1950), where he was dubbed " Radar" for his uncanny way of picking up ground balls.
Elevated to the Cincinnati Reds in 1951, he saw little action with a .211 batting average, while Virgil Stallcup was the starting shortstop. Reds manager, Luke Sewell was not happy with Stallcup's performance and decided to cast his lot with McMillan in 1952.
In his first 52 times at bat, he accumulated exactly 2 hits. Yet Sewell stuck with his decision and was rewarded when Roy played in all 154 games with a surprising .244 batting average, 7 home runs, 32 doubles and 51 runs-batted-in. And fielded with expected excellence.
From his first game he began to set records and would play in every Reds game, 584 of them, until August 7, 1955 when a sore thumb took him out of the lineup. He would led the National League in fielding percentage four times, putouts three times, assists four times, and double plays four consecutive years from 1953-1956.
Johnny Temple joined the Reds in 1954 from then through 1959 with McMillan became the second longest double play combination in the NL since 1900. (The longest was Joe Morgan and David Concepcion of the Reds Big Red Machine 1970s era.).
The Reds best finish during McMillan's years was 1956 when they finished third with a 91-63 won-lost record. Their only other winning season was 1957 with a fourth place finish and a 80-74 record. The 1956 Reds tied a NL record for home runs with a 211 total. Rookie Frank Robinson led the way with 38 and Roy McMillan's one home run helped the team to tie the record.
Perhaps more surprising, it was that year of the home run when the Cincinnati Baseball Writer's Association awarded their Reds Most Valuable Player award to Roy McMillan with his meager 3 home runs. Their recognition of the value of superb defense was supported across the baseball world when Roy was ranked sixth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting, the highest of any Reds players, including Robinson and Ted Kluszewski, in that 1956 season.
National recognition of Roy would continue when in 1957 The Sporting News named him to their All-Star Fielding team and recipient of the Rawlings Gold Glove Trophy Award in the first year the award was made. Roy would receive that award again in 1958 and 1959.
Roy was not a one-dimensional player. He had his moments as a hitter. In the 1956 All-Star game, he went 2 for 4 in the National League's 7-3 win. On Sept 11, 1957, he hit a two-run home run off his landlord, former Red Herm Wehmeier, in the tenth inning of a 9-8 Reds win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was his only home run in 1957. McMillan rented Wehmeier's home in Westwood, a suburb of Cincinnati. On April 20, 1960 Roy had his biggest offensive game, five hits, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs in a win over Milwaukee.
In the search for better pitching, the Reds traded McMillan to the Milwaukee Braves for pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizzaro on December, 1960. After three seasons with the Braves, he completed his Major League career with the New York Mets from 1964-1966. He played in 157 games, at age 35 in 1965 and started a triple play in a 23-inning marathon game against the San Francisco Giants in 1964.
After serving as player-coach for Jacksonville, Florida in 1967, he managed Visalia, California League, in 1968 and piloted Memphis, Texas League, to a division championship in 1969. He returned to the Major Leagues as coach with the Milwaukee Brewers form 1970-72 and the New York Mets from 1973-1976. In brief stints as interim manager with the Brewers (1972) and the Mets (1975), McMillan compiled a 27-28 record and completed his baseball career managing team in the Minnesota Twins Minor League system and as a Texas area scout for the Montreal Expos.
Roy McMillan was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1971, the only inductee that year.