This Great Black Baseball Player Still Isn’t in the Hall of Fame

Credit…Illustration by Mark Harris; photographs by The John Donaldson Network


Here is an excerpt from an article by Mary Pilon and for The New York Times that caught my eye. I was born and raised in Chicago and have been an avid fan of baseball since childhood.

To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain information about deep-discount subscriptions, please click here,

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Most baseball fans have probably never heard of John Donaldson, a hard-throwing pitcher who drew sold-out crowds around the country for an astonishing three decades before he hung up his glove in 1941. His statistics establish him as one of the greatest to ever play America’s pastime. Yet he died in obscurity.

Now, Donaldson’s towering contributions to the Negro Leagues are being slowly resurrected after decades of racial injustice and institutional neglect. That’s thanks to the efforts of a white guy who drives an Uber in Minnesota and to a network of amateur researchers that he organized to reconstruct Donaldson’s career and push for his admission into the Hall of Fame.

It’s been an arduous task; records about his life and career were scattered and often difficult to find. An earlier effort to elect him to the hall failed when a panel of historians considered experts on the Negro Leagues declined to select him in 2006. At the time, many of his career numbers were still not known. No explanation was given.

But Donaldson may have another shot in December, when the hall’s Early Baseball Era Committee meets to consider a roster of players, managers, umpires and executives whose greatest contributions to baseball took place before 1950. Any candidate whose name appears on at least 75 percent of the ballots will be inducted next year into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, joining 35 other Negro League players. The 10 candidates will be announced this fall.

The first step to righting an injustice is to admit that it occurred. That’s why this small group of baseball activists, led by Peter Gorton, the Uber driver, have been assembling their evidence and telling Donaldson’s story.

Perhaps one day the Hall of Fame will listen. It certainly should. His story is more than about baseball. It’s about the pain of social change. It’s probably not a coincidence that Donaldson attended seminary, but, against his mother’s wishes, ultimately chose to preach by example the gospel of change on the field of dreams.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Ms. Pilon is a former sports reporter for The Times. Mr. Free is a television writer.

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