GLASGOW, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri school district has unveiled a statue of a local baseball legend known for his pitching during his career in the Negro Baseball League.
Earlier this month, Glasgow Public Schools also dedicated its new baseball field in honor of John Wesley Donaldson, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
“I often say that the government doesn’t make this state great,” Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe said at Donaldson’s dedication. “It’s the people. The people leaving legacies like John Donaldson. Being great means impacting those around you. Focusing on your purpose by serving others.”
After Donaldson’s death in 1970, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2017. And even then, people still did not know of him.
“John Donaldson is one of the greatest baseball players who you’ve probably never heard of,” said Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick before Donaldson’s induction to the Hall of Fame.
Peter Gorton, a member of the John Donaldson Network who has researched the pitcher, said the district’s decision to honor Donaldson will help people learn about Donaldson’s importance to African Americans in baseball.
“We’re going to change the way people view African American athletes whose legacies have been taken away from them by our segregated past,” Gorton said.
Donaldson had 413 wins and 5,091 strikeouts between 1908 to 1940. He was also a founding member of the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs and would become the first Black scout in Major League Baseball.
Donaldson is one of many notable Negro Leagues athletes that have still not been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But Gorton is not concerned with that. He just wants people to know about Donaldson.
Gorton had believed that people weren’t interested in the Negro Leagues or that newspapers didn’t cover it, but through his research, he realized that was not true.
“We’ve found 7,854 newspaper articles pertaining to John Donaldson’s career,” Gorton said. “That means newspapers wrote about him and they wrote about African American (athletes). It was just a part of our biased history that had kept him from being rediscovered.”
The color barrier, which wasn’t dismantled until the 1940s, kept Donaldson from playing in the major leagues.
“John Donaldson physically dominated everybody he played against hist entire career,” Gorton said. “Major League teams, owners and managers wanted him on their teams.”
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