John Donaldson: The Greatest Pitcher You’ve Never Heard Of

From John Klima at Yahoo! Sports on March 28:

There was a time when John Donaldson was as famous as Satchel Paige. He was heralded as the “famous colored twirler,” whose only crime was playing his best years before 1920, when the Negro Leagues were officially created. Not only did Donaldson miss his chance to pitch in front of large crowds, he missed the chance to cement himself into contemporary baseball history. The pitcher who won more than 350 games and had 4,500 strikeouts has largely been lost to time.

In the days before black baseball became the economic force that motivated white baseball to integrate in 1947, Donaldson was one of its original stars. Newspaper accounts compared his change-up to that of Christy Mathewson and his fastball to that of Rube Waddell — both dominant pitchers of the 1900s. In the early years of black baseball, Donaldson was a trailblazer for the trailblazers. And because he played his best baseball in small towns instead of big cities, he faded like his change-up.

Read the full article here:

To learn more about SABR member Peter Gorton’s Donaldson Research Network, visit

Originally published: March 28, 2011. Last Updated: March 28, 2011.