John Wesley Donaldson was born on February 20, 1891, in Glasgow, Missouri. Between 1908 and 1940, The left-handed pitcher amassed a won-loss record of at least 360 and 141, with about 4,500 strikeouts. He has been credited with 11 no-hitters, one perfect game, dozens of one-hitters, and at least 86 shutouts. And he batted around .334.
Donaldson began his playing career with his hometown Hannaca Blues and the nearby Missouri Black Tigers in Higbee, MO. In 1911, he joined the Tennessee Rats of Holden, MO. He reportedly had a record of 44-3 that year. Next, Donaldson went to Des Moines, IA, to pitch for the All Nations team for a salary of $150 per month. This barnstorming played teams throughout the Midwest.
Between 1915 and 1919, Donaldson played with teams from Iowa to Florida, including the Indianapolis ABCs, the Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Detroit Stars, and the Chicago American Giants. In 1920, with the creation of the Negro National League, Donaldson joined the Kansas City Monarchs. He was with the Monarchs from 1920 to 1923, while continuing to pitch for All Nations part-time. Donaldson continued to play semi-pro ball throughout the 1920s and 1930s, perhaps into the 1940s. Researchers have uncovered records of him playing in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, and Saskatchewan.
Donaldson is the greatest pitcher you never heard of. In 1913, he pitched three consecutive no-hitters. Let that sink in for a little bit: Three. Consecutive. No-hitters. Over the course of his career, he had two 30 strikeout games, 11 games with more than 25 strikeouts, 30 games with more than 20 strikeouts, 109 games with more than 15 strikeouts, and a total of 203 double digit strikeout games. And counting.
Why “and counting”? Because researchers haven’t uncovered everything there is to know about Mr. Donaldson. Donaldson is from that unique period in time which baseball historians haven’t completely recorded and Donaldson was black, so the barnstorming teams he played for in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s, weren’t always well organized, nor do complete records exist.
That’s where the Donaldson Network comes in – tune in for Monday’s post on this group of researchers keeping the memory of John Donaldson alive. In the meantime, enjoy the footage below of John Donaldson in action in 1925 in Fergus Falls, MN.