Hall of Very Good: John Donaldson

From SABR member Scott Simkus at Hall of Very Good on July 17, 2012:

If you go back to the days before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, you’ll discover a treasure of forgotten baseball talent, performing on the fringe. Athletes who, because they had no other alternative, loaded up inside rattle trap cars, criss-crossing the nation, playing baseball for peanuts, in small towns and big cities alike.

African-American pitcher John Donaldson was born in Glasgow, Missouri on February 20, 1891, and became a folk hero in his own time; a left-hander with a blazing fastball and wicked curve, known for racking up unprecedented strikeout numbers in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1916, he was credited with 240 strikeouts over a 12 game stretch.

He was Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Johnny Appleseed, dressed up in a flannel baseball costume.

Donaldson first rose to prominence with J.L. Wilkinson’s All Nations ballclub during the teens, pitching against small town clubs in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas. The All Nations were an interesting attraction, and as their name implies, their roster featured players from around the globe: Asians, Cubans, blacks, whites. A couple seasons, they carried two female players; one of whom, known as “Carrie Nation,” anchored first base, dazzling fans with her steady glove work.          

They were a good club who, playing against mainly amateur competition, won more than 70% of their games, season after season. But it was Donaldson who really carried the club. He not only dominated with his arm, but hit well and played a steady centerfield when not on the mound, grabbing the majority of headlines. He was a regional sensation whose exploits were celebrated in newspaper wire stories across the country, in the years before the actual Negro leagues were formed.

Read the full article here: http://www.hallofverygood.com/2012/07/hovg-heroes-john-donaldson.html

Originally published: July 17, 2012. Last Updated: July 17, 2012.