St. Louis Sports Day

Glasgow, Mo. Event To Restore Legacy Of Negro Leagues Pitcher Sept. 4

John Donaldson uniform

John Wesley Donaldson was a Negro Leagues baseball player who has more segregated wins (413) and strikeouts (5091) than any pitcher in the history of the game. His 32-year playing career witnessed 724 different cities in the US and Canada. Playing baseball outside of the “whites-only” leagues took incredible courage. From 1908 to 1940, Donaldson navigated Jim Crow laws in America to record a career that left historians no clear path to document. He left a legacy scattered across the continent and ultimately into obscurity. Upon Donaldson’s retirement from pitching he became the first Black scout in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). He is known to have passed the torch of elite Negro Leagues pitching to Satchel Paige.

Newspapers from Donaldson’s era described him as “The greatest pitcher in the world” often using glowing praise like, “John Donaldson is rated the leading twirler of the black race and last season won sixty out of sixty-five games.” or “John Donaldson is – and there is no one that is qualified to speak authoritatively that will dispute it – the greatest colored baseball player of today and of all time.”

John DonaldsonHe will be honored at the John Donaldson Statue & Field Dedication Day in Glasgow, Missouri on September 4 at the opening day of a state-of-the-art ballpark named for this local & national legend. The facility provides a home for community teams and youth sports programs insuring generations of players will remember his enduring legacy. Many of Glasgow’s community organizations have expressed support of the effort to recognize Donaldson and pride in his being a son of Glasgow.

Donaldson’s larger-than-life statue was completed by renowned sculptor Kwan Wu late last year and will serve as a symbol of what Donaldson and other Negro Leagues players endured behind the walls of the “color line” and in our segregated society. His story has been hidden for decades, untaught due the lack of knowledge and appreciation. Ironically his statue is in plain view of a former plantation mansion from the 19th Century. John Donaldson’s life defied convention and his example can serve as a unifier today.

In 1917, the white “major leagues” wanted John Donaldson. A scheme was developed to send him to Cuba then return the the United States as a light skinned, Spanish-speaking, blazing fastball throwing left-handed pitcher. Donaldson rebuffed an offer of $10,000 and refused to be “something he was not.” Donaldson said, “I was born Black and I was born American, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Donaldson was a founding member of the Kansas City Monarchs, the most famous Negro League franchise ever and is credited with naming the franchise. Monarch owner J.L. Wilkinson (National Baseball Hall of Fame – 2006) said of Donaldson, “He was the best southpaw I ever saw, black or white.” Discussions of Donaldson’s career eventually lead to comparisons of a much better remembered pitcher, Satchel Paige.

Wilkinson said, “Paige is a great pitcher, all right…but Donaldson had more stuff. There never was a pitcher, black or white, who could put more on the ball than Donaldson.” Still others said Paige was “the only rival to the immortal John Donaldson.”

John Donaldson Art-333Donaldson’s career was all but forgotten as his final resting place remained unmarked for more than 30-years. In 2004, a proper marker was placed on the site by the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project and The Donaldson Network began searching for every instance of Donaldson’s playing career. What was discovered over the next decade places John Donaldson in a category with the greatest baseball players in the history of the national sport.

In 2020 upon the Centennial of the founding of the first sustained Negro League, Donaldson was named to the “All Century Team” and is celebrated across all levels of baseball.

John Donaldson Statue & Field Dedication Day is supported by institutions, individuals and corporate partners across the United States with major contributions from Bob Monnig Industries, Tom Turner & Glasgow Public Schools. Further contributions from: The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, The South Dakota Historical Society, The Center for Negro Leagues Baseball Research, The Negro Southern League Museum, The Society for American Baseball Research – Negro Leagues Committee & TBC Video Productions.

The rediscovery of John Donaldson as one of baseball’s forgotten heroes and dedication of a statue & field in his honor are reason to celebrate! More information will be released as it becomes available.