Barred from big leagues by color barrier; this baseball great made MN home


One of the all-time great baseball players never spent a day in the big leagues.

John Donaldson played in an age when African-Americans were banned from Major League Baseball. So he showed off his skills by touring the Midwest with barnstorming teams and made southwestern Minnesota his home.

When the Murray County Fair opens in Slayton on Wednesday, it will include a presentation titled "The Greatest Colored Pitcher in the World: When John Donaldson Played in Murray County." An exhibit on Donaldson will also open at the county museum.

While some consider Donaldson one of the sports greatest players, his career has been shrouded in mystery. Baseball historian Peter Gorton has been working to unravel it and will give fairgoers a taste of what he's learned about Donaldson.

He's delivered similar presentations in other towns where Donaldson was wowing baseball fans a century ago.

Gorton has spent years researching Donaldson's career and now has a team of hundreds of volunteers helping him.

They've collected accounts of hundreds of games Donaldson pitched during a career that spanned from 1908 all the way through 1940.

In the late 1920's, for example, Donaldson pitched games from Sioux City and South Dakota throughout western Minnesota and as far north as Winnipeg.

The Worthington Daily Globe reports Donaldson made his home in Nobles County in 1926. By then, Hall of Fame manager John McGraw had already called Donaldson the best lefthanded pitcher he'd ever seen.

Historians have verified that Donaldson won at least 398 games in his career and struck out 4,904 batters, the Globe says.

Historian Gorton tells the newspaper that one of the keys to Donaldson's success was ability to pitch at different speeds, using a change-up that was ahead of its time to compliment an extreme fastball.

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