Long Road to the Hall of Fame?
By Pete Gorton, curator of The Donaldson Network
The National Baseball Hall of Fame began inducting into its ranks Negro League players beginning with Satchel Paige in 1971. For the next three and a half decades a representative from Black baseball gained the honor of being included at Cooperstown.
In 2000 the Hall of Fame received a grant from Major League Baseball for a comprehensive study on African Americans in baseball. The Committee on African-American Baseball began to assemble a list of people associated with Black baseball to be considered for induction in 2006.
John Donaldson was considered by a subcommittee and made the cut to reach the final ballot consisting of 39 names associated with the Black game.
All of the players, managers and executives from the list were profiled in individual press released bios. John Donaldson’s was authored by myself and sent to committee chairman Dick Clark for distribution.
The first biography sent out was ours for John Donaldson. All of his known stats and several of his greatest feats were listed. The committee held Donaldson’s fate in their hands.
We were told 75% of the 13-member committee would have to vote “yes” for Donaldson’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
His vote total was not enough.
There were cries of injustice but mostly for the great Buck O’Neil who too was not included.
One note delivered a decade after the election came from then President of the HOF, Jeff Idelson, “We indicated that that would be the final election for those who performed in the Negro Leagues unless new research came out that would warrant another look.”
The committee who judged John Donaldson’s Hall of Fame worthiness in 2006 had a qualified resume for him. Over 200 wins and just short of 3000 strikeouts in 325 games. His known statistics grew over the next 16-years. Today we have an unprecedented career filled with 413 wins and 5091 strikeouts, both huge percentage leaps. Indeed these numbers alone should “warrant another look.”
At the annual baseball Winter Meetings held this December in Dallas, Texas a group called the Early Game Committee will have the opportunity to review the new research on John Donaldson and hopefully consider him again. His long road to Cooperstown is coming into focus and is nearing judgement day, again.
Our effort to recognize Donaldson is only just beginning. Starting with a two decade run of extensive research and a discovery of an All-Time great leading to a beautiful statue and field that will bear his name.
Telling John Donaldson’s story of perseverance has been a blessing we need to truly cherish.
Working to bring Donaldson’s overlooked—lost history to the people and to lovers of the National Pastime everywhere is our goal.
Together we will restore his legacy!
Editor’s notes: “Should Be In the Hall” is a new Cox Sportsnet series that spotlights athletes from various sports disciplines who are deserving of hall of fame recognition.
For more information on John Donaldson’s career, please visit the following sites:
The New York Times: This Great Black Baseball Player Still Isn’t in the Hall of Fame
The Kansas City Star: A Negro Leagues legend will get some well-deserved recognition in his Missouri hometown