Donaldson Network 2012 Summer Newsletter

Posted on June 6, 2012

The Donaldson Network Newsletter - Click Here to Read the Summer 2012 Newsletter

The Minnesota African American Museum opens soon, featuring a John Wesley Donaldson Display! We also take a closer look at the article that launched the Donaldson Network from the 1914 Wells Advocate. Zoom in with your pdf reader to read every word of the original article yourself! We take a closer look at film and photos, and investigate Sylvestor "Hooks" Foreman, a long-time catcher for John Donaldson. We look at some of the famous baseball parks, and what John Donaldson did during his scouting years with the MLB.

Donaldson Network 2011-2012 Winter Newsletter

Posted on February 12, 2012

The Donaldson Network Newsletter - February 2012 Newsletter

John Donaldson's rookie card shows up, 70 years later. We unwrap the mystery of a 1950s photo Donaldson posed for that ended up in The Sporting News. Rich from Canada, Chris from Washington State, and Aaron from Kansas City make some incredible finds (in places no one knew to even look!), and the Donaldson Network gains a couple more awards.

Identifying and Documenting Photos

Posted on September 15, 2011

Taking a second look at the 1912 Hopkins Bros. All Nations Photo - Click Here for the Hopkins Bros. Photo

We are pushing to get photos online so that researchers now and in the future can better identify players. We have some potential names for some of these ballplayers, but are looking for more solid evidence, and a comparison photo (maybe even one that's already been identified by an original source).

We are always looking, and to our surprise, pictures and more games are always showing up. Just this month, we received two or three more photos of John Donaldson in his later years. This is just amazing!

Researcher Andy Hewitt releases an Essay on John Donaldson

Posted on August 22, 2011

Researcher Andy Hewitt releases John Donaldson Essay - A Midwestern Pastime: A look at race, John Donaldson, and baseball in the Midwest

One of the best things we could ever hope for at The Donaldson Network is to have a fresh pair of eyes look at the research material and help us get a perspective. Fellow researcher Andy Hewitt has allowed us to publish his essay on John Donaldson, and we couldn't be happier. Mr. Hewitt really gets to the heart of what it was to be John Donaldson, and meet John Donaldson. Sure, he was a great player, but he was also a mentor. So we feel that, pardon the pun, you really hit this one out of the park Andy! Thanks!

Donaldson Network 2011 Summer Newsletter

Posted on July 13, 2011

The Donaldson Network Newsletter - July 2011 Newsletter

We mourn the passing of a valuable Donaldson Network member, and celebrate new findings in our effort to uncover history. This version of the Donaldson Network Newsletter takes us to over a dozen states, and even takes us as far away as Japan! We check in on "Krock Watch" to find the next soul who has been given a proper grave marker. And, we started something new, including your opinions on why this work has been important, informative, or interesting to you!

Donaldson Network adds to the 1923 Kansas City Monarchs Calendar

Posted on June 9, 2011

The Kansas City Monarchs Calendar - June 1923 Kansas City Monarchs

We are testing a new template to help researchers sort and find games played by the Monarchs, the All Nations, and other teams associated with John Donaldson. For now, we are listing an entire month, and including every article associated with that month. We are hoping this will help to place a magnifying glass on everything we have, and all of the blank spaces we need to attempt to fill in calendars and find all of the games. And, we are always looking for ideas to help make researching easier for everyone.

Donaldson Network 2011 Winter Newsletter

Posted on February 3, 2011

The Donaldson Network Newsletter - February 2011 Newsletter

Just in time to celebrate Black History Month, we continue to celebrate the life and career of John Wesley Donaldson. The latest discoveries include picture comparisons showing John Donaldson, Frank Blattner, Jose Mendez, Mr. George "Chief" Walla, and several other team members from the All Nations traveling baseball team. We also take a look at the Goldsmith business who once funded the All Nations baseball team. We are excited about this month's "Krock Watch" where Dr. Jeremy Krock is the focus of an ESPN story to air in February.

Minnesota Researcher (#3) Marjorie Wendt

Posted on December 18, 2010

Nobles County researcher Marjorie Wendt calls John Donaldson " of the most interesting project I have worked on..."

"In 2005 the Nobles County Historical Society received a letter from Peter Gorton requesting any information on John Donaldson. The Historical Society turned the letter over to me to do the research. I began my research by using the Nobles County Library's excellent microfilm resources which includes old newspapers from the early 1900s. John Donaldson had lived in Nobles County in 1926 and played baseball for the Lismore Gophers. Since baseball was the main entertainment in those days, the newspapers covered baseball news every week.

Also, the internet was a valuable resource in finding information on John Donaldson. This remains a valuable source as the Donaldson file remains open for further research. Researching John Donaldson's career in baseball has been one of the most interesting projects I have worked on, and I'm pleased to be able to contribute to this project."

All of us at the Donaldson Network are pleased you helped contribute, too. Thank you for your research contributions!

Donaldson Network 2010 Summer Newsletter

Posted on August 25, 2010

The Donaldson Network Newsletter - August 2010 Newsletter

More video, more networking, more cooperation, and more interesting stories appear in the latest researcher newsletter for the John Donaldson network. This is the first newsletter to explore the story of Elmer Brandell. And the newsletter features an article with fellow researcher Todd Peterson and his new book, Early Black Baseball in Minnesota.

Missouri Researcher (#2) Dwayne Isgrig

Posted on August 19, 2010

Dwayne Isgrig's 2010 Malloy Conference Speech

Not only has Dwayne Isgrig surprised the Negro Leagues research group, he also made some amazing finds for the John Donaldson Network. We can't thank him enough here, but we would like to share with the world his good work and speech from the 2010 Malloy Conference.

Dwayne Isgrig 2010 Malloy Conferece Speech on Piper Davis from Pete Gorton on Vimeo.

Missouri Researcher (#1) Todd Peterson

Posted on August 19, 2010

The art and research of Todd Peterson

It's hard to even start to describe what Todd Peterson has meant to the Negro Leagues baseball research effort, the pre-Negro Leagues baseball effort, and the effort here at the John Donaldson Network.

Todd has been a companion in our effort, and at the same time shows us what we could be if we tried to exercise the artistic side of our brain. is Todd's website, showcasing some of his work. Check out his impressive gallery of work on his website, including his most recent work, shown at the 2010 Malloy Conference, which won him another award!

Minnesota Researcher (#1) Steve Hoffbeck

Posted on June 17, 2010

Steve Hoffbeck has finished a couple of great articles about Minnesota baseball.

The first, When Satchel Paige Struck Out Twenty Beulah Miners is a fascinating article about Satchel Paige (a man who once fanned batters playing on teams with John Donaldson in his later years), and the second article, Sunday Baseball peers into Blue Laws, laws saying professional baseball could not be played on Sunday in North Dakota (as well as many other states).

California Researcher (#1) Alan Muchlinski

Posted on June 10, 2010

With a whole lot of luck, and a ton of grace on his part, baseball researcher Alan Muchlinksi has not only allowed us to republish a great work he first finished in 2002 and then updated in 2006.

Mr. Muchlinski has also been an inspiration and an integral part in the research of John Donaldson. He had the first comprehensive review of John Donaldson's career (especially 1924 to 1932), playing semi-professional baseball in the Upper Midwest.

Read Alan Muchlinski's Paper complete with some newly discovered pictures.

Donaldson Network Winter Newsletter

Posted on December 26, 2009

Read the latest Newsletter, including "Scouts Speak," the Burr Oak Cemetery Update, and the "hat mystery," including much, much more. - The newletter comes as the website continues to change for the better each year.

The Donaldson Network continues it's effort, uncovering over 355 pitching wins. A suprising find comes from North Dakota, where some All Nations' letterhead has surfaced from 1923!

Read the December Newsletter about some fellow researchers who have helped advance John Donaldson's historic career, as well as research efforts of their own.

Donaldson Network Summer Newsletter

Posted on July 13, 2009

Read the latest Newsletter about John Donaldson's 355th win -

The Donaldson Network continues it's effort, uncovering over 350 pitching wins. Some of the latest wins we discovered came as far away as Brooklyn, New York.

Read the July Newsletter about some fellow researchers who have helped advance John Donaldson's historic career, as well as research efforts of their own.

Michigan Researcher (#1) Barbara Pence

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Michigan-based researcher Barbara Pence honors her grandfather with some great finds! -

Growing up with a grandfather who lived and breathed baseball, my getting involved with the Donaldson project seemed like something that he would have truly loved. Grampy was a simple man who worked hard, loved his family, and adored baseball. He grew up in an era when many young men marked their passage into adulthood by learning to chew tobacco. As young kids, my brother and I eagerly awaited his opening of a new package of that smelly stuff, so that we could get our hands on the enclosed baseball card. We’d pour over them, ask questions, talk about players, invent games, and of course listen to Grampy’s never ending stories about the players.

With working parents, we spent a great deal of time with our grandparents; walking to their home after school, while spending the days with them during the summer months. Baseball was always a part of the background sounds of their house. Grampy had different baseball games going on the radios both up and downstairs, and yet a third game on television. If we had questions about homework, he’d try to help, during station breaks and commercials, of course.

School was easy for me but math, that was another story. One spring day I took some division homework to Grampy; I was upset “What good is this?” I asked. “Why do I need to know this stuff? He looked at me, gave a few chews on his wad of tobacco and said “If you can’t do these problems, how are you going to ever figure out batting averages?” As they say, the rest is history. Math made sense now, it had a purpose.

So does my participation in the Donaldson project. To honor a great baseball player who, because of the color of his skin, never received the honor that was due him and to honor a man who thought baseball was as close to a religious experience as you could get on Earth.

Barbara Pence

Donaldson Network 2008 Winter Newsletter

Posted on November 5, 2008

The first Donaldson Network Newsletter -

While awaiting the birth of his second child, and first son, Pete Gorton decided to start a newsletter to say thanks to everyone who has helped, and keep anyone interested in our progress toward uncovering Donaldson's career. Tim, Todd, Steve, Lila, Sam, and Marty make some of the mentions for researchers who have continued to keep forward progress in an effort some experts have called, "impossible."
Click here to read the 2008 Winter Newsletter

Nebraska Researcher (#1) Lila

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Lila has been one of our strongest geneological researchers to date! -

The more we receive about Donaldson and the more we read about the researchers who have helped us over these past eight or nine years has lead us to realize the most amazing stories are often with the researchers themselves.

One researcher joining our effort comes from Nebraska. Nebraska is a state much like Iowa in that they have always loved baseball. A lot of good ballplayers came from Nebraska farms. And for a long time, we suspected Nebraska hid a lot of treasures. Omaha, with an intense history as a major railroad hub has always been a great place for baseball. And it remains that way today. There's a long history to why the College World Series is held in Omaha.

After finding posts asking for help, Lila answered our call for help:

"It took only one lookup in a Greenwood, Nebraska newspaper, to get me hooked on the John Donaldson story. Baseball was part of my life while my husband was living, but my research skills, up to November of 2007, had been limited to genealogy.

For twenty years I researched my husband's and my own families and early in 2007 published a book, The Ancestors of Two Brothers: Thomas Earl Garner & Robert Paul Garner, about my findings.

As research for the book was winding down, I made my first foray into modern (20th Century) sleuthing when I pursued the facts that led to the reunion of an adoptee with his birth family. During the latter investigation, I've been called a "bloodhound", a "spitfire genealogist," "a piece of work (in a most respectful and affectionate way)," and "a dog with a bone." No one has called me a crackpot, not yet. This was an emotionally draining project.

The Donaldson endeavor is proving to be interesting and compelling without the emotional involvement of my previous projects, the kind of undertaking I need."

Lila, you may not have as much "emotional involvement," but many of your findings have certainly brought tears to our eyes! We hope to have some of your findings up here on the website soon!

Kansas Researcher (#2) Jan

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Jan strikes it big in Kansas! -

We have many new researchers joining our effort. One of the latest is Jan, who volunteered to find some missing dates in Kansas. And she struck it, big time, discovering a day in Horton, Kansas in early May of 1916.

What this means is there's an entire month of May, in 1916 that we didn't know anything about. That also means we might start finding games starting as early as May 1st on other years before and after 1916. You see, one hundred years ago, a heavy spring rain spell could spell a disasterous week in the life of a barnstorming baseball team. Not only are the fields muddy, but travel using anything but a train during a rainy week meant stuck vehicles, horses or wagons. The team might make it to the field. But the fans might not.

We are celebrating Jan's effort, and can say without a doubt she has found the proverbial "needle in a haystack." Now we can start using that needle to mend a baseball record and a history of barnstorming baseball that has almost been forgotten.

Thanks Jan. Professional researchers have told us that the info just isn't there regarding Donaldson, and other barnstormers like Jose Mendez and Satchel Paige. And you have helped us prove they are wrong.

Iowa Researcher (#1) Roger Natte

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Retired College Professor Redefines Iowa Baseball History! -

I am a retired college professor who has had a long interest in local history, especially in how local events and movements reflect the broader scope of American history. One of my interests has been in the ethnic history of my community. Although the population of Fort Dodge area is a mixture of nationalities most have come from northern Europe. Nevertheless, there has been an African-American presence from the first years of settlement. At the beginning of the 20th century baseball clearly was the sport of choice with most towns, even the smallest, organizing a local team often with outsiders brought in to play key positions. Several towns organized teams of all black players. More frequently single black stars filled gaps in all white lineups. Fort Dodge was large enough to have a team which was entirely pro or semi-pro but as far as I have been able to discover never had black ball players. Their opponents were often traveling teams from as far away as Kansas City which often did include non-white members. Lehigh was another town in the same county as Fort Dodge. It was a coal mining and clay products manufacturing community but was noted for its baseball. It's team, the Lehigh Lightfeet, played all comers, including the Chicago Cubs. They were so popular that a cigar was named after the team. It was the Lehigh team that recruited John Donaldson.

I was aware of Donaldson as a Lehigh player but I had no idea of his career before or after Lehigh until I was contacted by Pete Gorton. I soon found out that Donaldson had long been forgotten, not only in Fort Dodge but also in Lehigh. People were aware that there were black ball players but knew little more than that. Fortunately several newspapers from both Fort Dodge and Lehigh date back to this period. Unfortunately none have been indexed. Fortunately the local historical society is currently in the process of indexing those from this period. Unfortunately this is a long job and probably will take over a year. The rewards, however, are the things we discover that are totally new in each paper we read. The story of John Donaldson and the African Americans here has become an unfolding of a wonderful story. Each day we add to it. It is especially exciting because we know the end of the story but we are now following the journey to that end.

Donaldson was here at what may be considered one of the low points in black and racial history. Newspapers are filled with stories of lynchings and the driving of black people out of towns, not only in the South but also in Iowa. A black person charged with even a minor offense, even in communities outside of the state, made front page news in the Fort Dodge papers. The use of racial slurs in news stories, even about local ball players, is shocking by today's standards. Although, as a history teacher I have long been aware of the racial climate of the times, I never fail to be shocked when I see in the records specific local instances of how malevolent our society has been. It is amazing that a person like Donaldson was able to tolerate that climate. From all that we have been able to find locally Donaldson, in spite of the slurs, was highly respected as a great ball player and a gentleman. He apparently had positive feelings toward Lehigh and Fort Dodge because he kept returning to the area years after his playing days here were over. He may have been a great ball player but he also was a man of great courage and discipline.

Research in any area can be a lonely experience. Being in contact with someone else who is interested in your subject is inspiring. You have a chance to be at least a part of a larger and more worthwhile project. Sharing of information allows the achievement of something which independently might never have happened. Although John Donaldson is the focus of our efforts I and those here who have been involved have learned much more about our own community and our history. We are made much richer also by discovering what roles our communities have played in a broader more glorious story.

North Dakota Researcher (#1) Jean

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North Dakota woman (with no prior baseball research experience) helps the Donaldson Network redifine their search methods! -

I research black baseball history. My area of interest is the gifted, charismatic, "legendary hurler", John Donaldson. As a white, married, mother of two grown daughters who knows next to nothing about America’s favorite pastime, I can hardly believe it myself.

It began simply enough. I am an amateur genealogist, and happened to read a post on a local board from a man needing newspaper accounts for two baseball games played back in the early 1900s. Helping other researchers find information is an important aspect of genealogy. But this post seemed a little far-fetched, and I wondered if it were some kind of hoax. The author, Peter Gorton, said he was making a push for a player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – and claimed this famous pitcher had played in my hometown. "Yea, right," I thought to myself. But a few Google searches and mouse clicks later, I discovered that Mr. Gorton was a contributing author to a book, "Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota". He was also mentioned several times in an online newspaper piece. Reading that article was my turning point. I had stumbled upon the story of John Donaldson.

Amazing! How could the sports world have forgotten about such a talented, ground-breaking athlete? I was fascinated. The newspaper reporter noted that John died in obscurity, and had been buried in an unmarked grave in Illinois. Peter Gorton's name was listed as one of those trying to restore his legacy. That was enough for me. I'd reply to the post. Finding those two games would be my small contribution to righting what seemed to be a long overlooked injustice.

It didn't take much time for me to obtain the information that was needed. However I discovered the more I read about John Donaldson, the more I wanted to know not just about the athlete, but about the man. I've stopped counting the numbers of films I've looked through, the maps I've studied, the archives I've searched, the hours I've spent at the library, and the late nights in front of my computer. Uncovering a piece of long forgotten history is exciting. And although my contribution to recreating John Donaldson's baseball career has been very small, I can't help but feel that I have done something important. The information I've found will not be lost again. It will be recorded in the archives of The Hall of Fame and studied by historians, enjoyed by fans, and passed down through generations. Isn't it ironic, that in restoring John Donaldson's legacy, we end up creating a tiny piece of our own!

The experience of being part of what Pete Gorton likes to call 'The Donaldson Network' exposed me to more than I could have ever imagined. I now appreciate the importance of newspaper archives. They contain the details of history that can never be found in books. I've learned that although the struggle for racial equality finally peaked in the 50s and 60s, the blurring of the color line began with baseball decades before. The courageous players who filled the rosters of those early barnstorming teams often faced hostile crowds, but the talent and character of men such as John Donaldson demanded respect, and they got it. An unexpected bonus of my research is the people I've met; the local baseball historians who never failed to return my phone calls; all the librarians who not only helped me search, but once actually assisted in unraveling an entire film through out the library because it had been incorrectly reeled upside down and backwards; friends I've never met from the genealogy society who gave me free access to all their material; and of course, Peter Gorton who answered every single question I asked (and there were MANY), kept me focused, was always encouraging, and never failed to let me know how much my efforts were appreciated. If you ever want an example of the difference just one person can make, Pete's your man. His efforts on John Donaldson's behalf can only be described as phenomenal.

Was I disappointed when this extraordinary player was not inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame? Yes! Do I think it's important that he be there? Yes! But, I like to think there is a reason for everything. There are too many games left to find before the measure of John Donaldson's career can be fully appreciated. The hunt might have abruptly halted had his induction attempt been successful. So now the search continues in hopes that when another opportunity surfaces, John might finally receive the public acknowledgement he so richly deserves. And if fate and the Hall of Fame decree it otherwise, so be it. No one can take away what's already been restored, the historical record of a legendary athlete.

Kansas Researcher (#1) Sam Sinke

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Kansas satellite engineer offers help in research and builds Donaldson website -

Pete Gorton and I became friends when he took over a job I held in Tallahassee, Florida back in (I think) 1999. We continued to work in the satellite industry together for a couple more years, working at the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primaries, and a few other events. When we both left the company, the company folded (*We'd like to think that they just couldn't survive without us.*), but we continued to work on satellite, television and video production together. And if there's one thing we've all come to know about Pete is that you don't have to worry if the job will be done right if he's there.

My friend Pete needed help. He had been working on this project for eight years, had a ton of data, needed even more box scores, line scores and stories surrounding this amazing ball player he'd been following.

What I'd realized is how good Pete was at networking, but how he could really be utilizing so many of the new tools we have available to us today. Some of the things that come easy to me, such as building a web site, searching through microfilm (I was six credits away from a double-minor in history), traveling to small towns throughout the midwest (I travel to these places for work, anyway). I started work on building the web site... from the ground-up... and am keeping the ball rolling on discovering new games by poring through every small town newspaper archive I can find.

What I hope to do is capture and share with the world (mostly via the internet) a real picture of this great player, who was almost lost to history, yet I also hope that we can learn a lot more about how important it is to work together when a project is this important. Working together, people put a proper gravestone on Donaldson's unmarked grave in Chicago. This is what it is to be a good neighbor, a good friend, and a good fan. I can't wait to see what happens next.