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John Donaldson

  • 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

Auction History

Ed Bolden

  • Series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: Darby
  • Team: Hilldale Athletic Club
  • League: Independent

Edward Bolden (1881-1950) was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in black baseball in the early 20th century. Though it sounds dissonant to the contemporary ear, Bolden proudly declared himself a “race man” and boldly promoted his club as one owned and operated by other race men. This was in opposition to overtures and intimidations of white impresarios seeking to horn in on the growing popularity of negro ball in the 1920s. Bolden was always a keen recruiter of talent and his reputation for black-ownership attracted some of the best to his teams including Louis Santop, Smoky Joe Williams and Dick Lundy. Ed cut his showman's teeth with the Hilldale Club of Darby PA, bringing solid management and a zeal for rectitude on and off the field. He banned alcohol and demanded decorum from his players. He even enforced discipline among the fans and brought in security when needed. Conflicts with Rube Foster over accusations of poaching by Bolden, coupled with high operating costs especially for travel, led Bolden to leave the Negro National League for the Eastern Colored League in 1922. The two superstars of black league management faced off in the first Colored World Series in 1924 with Foster's KC Monarchs triumphant. Bolden's squad got revenge the following year.

  • Black teams always ran on a shoestring and as the economy worsened in the late '20s and plunged in the Depression, Bolden left the game temporarily.
  • He returned to lead clubs through the war years and the cusp of integrated ball he earnestly desired to see. He was the last of the breed of early black ownership upon his death in 1950

Auction History

Jacob White, Jr.

  • Series: Pioneer Portraits I: 1850-1874
  • City: Philadelphia
  • Team: Pythian B.B.C.
  • League: Independent

Jacob C. White Jr. (1837-1902) was the son of a preacher in Philadelphia who grew into one of the city's most prominent businessmen. With his friend Octavius Catto, Jake founded and helped lead the Pythians, one of the first and most successful black baseball clubs of its day in America. Catto was the fiery on-field presence that galvanized the Pythians into a force on the national scene as baseball and the country emerged from the darkness of Civil War. But he depended on his childhood pal to help fund the club and give it necessary administration. White had earlier demonstrated the gifts of organization and leadership Catto needed when he took over the Robert Vaux school in 1864, taking it from a damp church basement struggling to help a few dozen black kids to a noted institution whose legacy continues today. Thanks to White's intellectual bent, the Pythians were as unlike the typical white ball clubs of the time as possible. The Club shared quarters with the Banneker Institute, also founded by White. The Pythians were refined gentlemen representing the elite of black society in Philadelphia. They were as interested in scholarly debate, abolition, desegregation and civil rights as they were in playing ball. Catto and White tried to join the National Association of Base Ball Players and, despite the support of the Athletics, were rejected. Eventually, in 1869 the club did get one chance to play a white team, the Philadelphia City Items, and walloped them 27-17.

  • White was the promoter of a distincive feature of black baseball in Philadelphia: an all-day celebration of sport and fellowship which invariably ended with a banquet organized by Jake
  • When his best friend and partner Catto was assassinated in the lead-up to the 1870 elections, a grieving White stepped away from the game he loved but continued to serve his city for decades

Auction History

Cum Posey

  • Series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: Homestead
  • Team: Grays (IND)
  • League: Independent
  • Hall: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Cumberland Willis Posey Jr, (1890-1946) was a brilliant, gifted and driven man, on the basketball court, the boxing ring, the diamond and the front office. He starred as Penn State’s first black hoops player, played at Pitt and Duquesne before founding his Black Five entry where the team won four straight Colored Basketball World Championships. He was an owner and columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, managed a boxing team and, by the way, built the Homestead Grays into one of the dominant franchises in Negro League history. Posey wasn’t big (5’9” and 145 lbs) but he excelled at every sport he tried. Yet, it was as player/manager/executive of the Grays from 1911 to 1946 that Cum made an indelible mark on American sports. Eleven of the 18 Negro League-era players in the Hall of Fame when Posey was inducted had played for him at some point. He had an unerring eye for talent and recruited the best, even in the face of fierce competition.

  • Posey’s Grays had been a force in Negro ball through the ‘20s and 30’s but never more so than during their unparalleled surge to nine straight league championships, a string that ended with this remarkable man’s untimely death from lung cancer on the very eve of Jackie Robinson’s matriculation
  • Elected to Hall of Fame: 2006

Auction History

Jose Mendez

  • Series: Diamond Heads '15
  • City: Havana
  • Team: Stars of Cuba
  • League: Independent
  • Hall: Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame, National Baseball Hall of Fame

Jose de la Caridad Mendez (1887-1928) visited America from his native Cuba in 1908 and demolished the ML Cincinnati Reds and minor league all-stars from Florida. He was unbeaten, untied, and unscored upon. He allowed but a single to Miller Huggins in the 9th inning of his first game on US soil, and hurled a no-hitter in Key West. Ira Thomas, catcher for the 2-time world champion Athletics, compared Mendez favorably to Walter Johnson and said “he is a remarkable pitcher, and if he were a white man would command a good position on any Major League club in the circuits.”

  • Became a star in the Negro Leagues, leading the KC Monarchs to pennants in ’23, ’24, and ‘25
  • The Cuban “Black Diamond’s” career spanned 1908-26
  • Elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in its inaugural class: 1939
  • Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: 2006

Auction History