John Donaldson

  • Card series: Diamond Heads '15
  • Team: All Nations
  • League: Independent

John Wesley Donaldson (1891-1970) “was the most amazing pitcher I ever saw” said J. L. Wilkinson, who had seen them all: Cubans, Blacks, Whites and the best female players of the early 20th century. Wilkinson’s All Nations team was a famed forbear of the Negro Leagues of which he was a founder. He told Satchel Paige that, had Donaldson been available to play for their Kansas City Monarchs, Paige would have been behind John in the rotation. Research has documented as many as 399 wins in Donaldson’s long career in black baseball; a career that would have been quite different had he heeded John McGraw’s plea to adopt a Cuban persona, renounce his family ties and come play in the major leagues. McGraw later said he’d have paid $50,000 for the left-hander but for the color barrier. But Donaldson was a man of integrity and dignity. He wouldn’t stoop to denying his heritage and thus remained in the “bushes” as modern baseball unfolded without him on the mounds that he deserved. Amateur historian Peter Gorton has made Donaldson his occupation, gathering records from libraries and news files around the country. Published box scores reveal games of phenomenal strikeout performances with the highest being 31 in an 18-inning game. John was just too good for the caliber of players he was able to face.

  • Donaldson first pitched for clubs in Missouri before touring with the barnstorming Tennessee Rats and then the All Nations. His 30-year career ended in 1949, two years after Jackie Robinson debuted in Brooklyn
  • 4,915 strikeouts have been documented for Donaldson. Remarkably, this total does not include the strikeouts from more than 150 games in which Donaldson pitched, but for which statistical data is lacking
  • Research shows that Donaldson compiled a 1.37 ERA over his 30 year career, during which he also threw 13 no hitters and one perfect game.
  • Donaldson had two, 30-k games; eleven, 25+ K games; thirty, 20+ K games
  • Despite never playing in MLB, Donaldson did become the first full-time black scout in major league history. He scouted for the Chicago White Sox from 1949 into the 1950s
  • Of Donaldson, John McGraw said, “I think he is the greatest I have ever seen.”
  • J.L. Wilkinson credits Donaldson with suggesting the name “Monarchs” for Wilkinson’s pioneering Negro League team from Kansas City
  • In 2006 the special HOF committee charged with evaluating pre-Negro League talent declined to include Donaldson

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