? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Lakeland Currents is sponsored by Nisswa Tax Service.
Nisswa Tax Service offers tax preparation for individuals and business. Across from city hall in Nisswa and on the web at nisswatax.com Hello again everyone and welcome to
the 6th season of Lakeland
Currents. And we want to give a special thanks
to our underwriter Nisswa Tax
Service. They have been with us since the very beginning
our first show and we
appreciate that very much. We thought we would kick off
the new year talking about
baseball. We had such a frustrating season
with the Twins this year. I think we lost 20 of the last 25 games.So we thought we’d bring in someone who knows a little bit about baseball. But we are not going to talk about the Twins. We are going to talk about baseball in Minnesota and we are going to talk specifically about some of the black players that play in Minnesota
because there is some really
unique history that affects all of us because
it covered the whole state. I think you will be surprised to learn some
of the interesting information
today. My guest today is Peter Gorton.
Peter is a baseball historian and I have to honest I’ve known
Peter since he was just a
little tyke. Our futures go back a long ways.
But anyway Peter is doing baseball history as a sideline. It’s not what his full time job is. But it is becoming almost a full time job
isn’t it Peter. It can be Welcome to the show. Thanks
for having me I a reciate Tell us a little bit about you got interested in getting into the history of baseball in Minnesota. I’ve always been
a big fan of baseball, an opportunity for me to give back.
An opportunity to find stories that people didn’t know anything about. It took me a long time to realize that That after I had massed
several years of doing research that people didn’t understand or had
very limited knowledge of
black baseball. And so I took that as a place
to focus on because it has a great o ortunity to tell stories that people had never heard. You can go to the internet and figure out
what Roger Hornsby did any day
of the week. You can’t go to the internet in that same
time period and find anything
about black baseball players, at least
at the time we started doing
this. More and more has come out more recently.
But this is an opportunity to find stories that not only
affect everyone still today. But they are really Minnesota
stories. They are stories about pioneers
in the game from our state. Tell me what you do besides this.
This obviously isn’t how you
make your living. How do you make your living?
No, technically I’m a
coordinator for Faegre Baker Daniels
a large law firm in Minnesota. I help people with presentations and do a lot
of video conferencing and
connecting our 13 offices worldwide.
Now getting back to the
baseball for a minute I know you have done some research for a book that was written about baseball. Could you talk just a little bit about that.
This is actually how I came across the opportunity to find out
about these stories. I was
asked by my high school, former high school
social studies teacher Steve
Hoffback to try and find out something about an obscure baseball player named JohnppDonaldson. He was writing a book that
chronicled the states history of black players. He was kinda of
taking it decade at a time. And he needed someone
from between in the 1920s. So I started getting into that and
finding out there was a real
opportunity to do the research. Here is a
couple of photographs that I provided that show general
baseball stories or general baseball
images from the early 1900s. This one is from
1909. We do is we’re collecting
photographs and stories and trying to tell their, stories of these unique black baseball players as many as we can as often, as we possibly can. And this is another opportunity to do that. Baseball has always been big
in Minnesota I think from the early 1900s. And you can see
by some of those photos that
lots of people used to attend those games.
I remember when I was a
youngster I was living at the time in Bertha.
I remember when we had legion
club games. It was a big event in our community
and lots of people would come
to that and your research you discovered that
a lot of these black players
played in a lot of our communities.
No doubt about it. The
particular time period that I specialize in is around 1910.
So around 1910 there was no radio, no tv. There was
no other distractions for
anybody There was barely phone service
in Bertha. So there was people were focused on this was
the thing to do. There wasn’t
anything. They would always play after church on Sundays. So everybody would come out of their churches and head down to the ballpark and watch games. It was a social activity. There was no A lot of the population couldn’t read so they weren’t involved in newspaper readings. So there was but this is
where everybody came and to learn the stories of people so it was passed on. Something that we have really lost touch with in terms of coming together in crowds.
We know do everything on social media and that type of thing.
Back then it was this is where you learn your information
about not only your neighbors This is where any entertainers would come and
you would learn about the
world at large at this coming together on Sundays and that was a big part of the state of Minnesota particularly way back when in
1910. You can think back in that era, it must have been hard for a black player to come to the small white communities
of Minnesota. Cause I know even there are there were
chapters of the Klu Klux Klan actually in Minnesota. Maybe there
still are I don’t know about
that. So there it must have been a challenge
for some of these players who
never had an opportunity in that era to play at the highest levels in major league baseball. This was as good as you could
get for them wasn’t it. Sometime around 1890, the major league
baseball and the organized
leagues at that time drew the color line. They decided
that baseball was only for white players. So it ostracized
black players to go and try find a living, make a living playing baseball.
They had to come up out to the bush as they called
at the time. So that way out
here in the state of Minnesota, where they would find
acceptance. Listen the people
who were here in the early 1900’s were
first generation immigrants. They were very comfortable with
people who weren’t like them. Cause they just got here themselves. There wasn’t a whole since of ownership of the
countryside or anywhere. Parts of communities were
heavily in to different nationalities.
So people were coming here and they were, the black players
were paid well when they came here. So they were known as
major leaguers. One of the
themes that I want to talk about is
during the segregated period approximately 1890
to approximately 1946 These players who were not
in the organized leagues they were major leaguers.
This is your opportunity in
Bertha or any of the small towns in Minnesota to see actual major leaguers. You couldn’t go even in
Minneapolis and St. Paul they
had association teams, those weren’t considered major league. They heard about Babe Ruth and they heard about
all the players from those eras based on their This was the opportunity to see actual major leaguers that they knew were behind the color barrier. So what, who are some of the
early players that you are talking about,
that you’ve been studying here? I studied primarily John Donaldson.
But he’s not the only one. There was lots of great black baseball
players. We have some
photographs of George Wilson who
played in Waseca, MN with a couple other of his black teammates that are pictured. George Wilson is on the upper left. He was hired
by the Echo Flour Company to play baseball
for their team against local competition. They paid him money to work in their flour mill and play baseball on Sunday.
This is where the opportunity
for black players. There are also players like
Walter Ball. Ball had the color line drawn on him three times.
He started playing in leagues
and then the league got together the next season and decided that we were just going to remain white as well. So all the black players had to go find work somewhere else. And so the color time was drawn on
Walter Ball three times. He is
in St. Cloud He played for them 1901 and
1903. So the color line was drawn on these guys,
they had to go find a place to
play. And so they would go
move around and rarely did they play for extend periods of time in places until the 1920s when several players played
for a great deal of time. But in the time of Walter Ball and George Wilson,
two of the greatest players
ever, that were black players
at that time. They were held
out had to play way out in the sticks
in order to earn their living. It’s time that people, modern people
realize that they were Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first black player to play. There were lots of players that were actively trying to make a living playing baseball for years and years and years beforehand. As soon as the color line was drawn in
approximately 1890. Jackie
Robinson movie I think is called 42
which was his number right. Yep And when is he recognized as entering
into major league baseball? Do
you the era what year? Well he played for the
Kansas Monarch which is an
established negro league team.
After playing collegiate football, three sport athlete
at UCLA. He played football, baseball and basketball
I believe. So he was a famous athlete and then went to the
Kansas City Monarchs mid 1940s was when they were putting, Branch Rickey was trying to get Jackie Robinson to play. They actually put him in Montreal first to see if he could assimilate in the Canadian audience cause they
knew there would be less
scrutiny. So the triple A team
for the Brooklyn Dodgers at that time. That was were they
put Jackie Robinson first. So
1946 was when the color line
was officially taken out. by Jackie Robinson major league debut.
So when you did the research on your book. You ran across a gentleman by the name of John Donaldson. Yes And he is the person you have
really become fascinated with fascinated by isn’t he. Tell us how did
you get into that. How did you
discover him? Steve Hoffback asked me to
search him for this era of 1910 to 1930
that his book was lacking. He asked a couple of other baseball
historians to take a look at
him. And they said no we can’t do that
it would be too hard for us to
do. So he called me his former student, and
said you know the people in
Bertha, cause John Donaldson played in Bertha. You know the people there, go there and find out as a local can you find out more
information than other people.
I did start digging there. Found some information on him and found a lot of games that he played in. Wrote a nice article for his book and got that part done. About that time someone found out that Donaldson’s
grave was unmarked in a suburban Chicago cemetery. So they invited me down there. The Chicago White Sox bought his headstone asked me to come down there for
the service they were going to
have to put a headstone on him and two other grave
sites in Chicago. So I went
down there and I thought there would be a bunch of
negro league historians down
there and I could give them some of my information and let people know who I was. And I realized that nobody knew anything about John Donaldson. They knew he didn’t have a lot of family that survived. So the information that
I was uncovering everyday was amassing a changing story.
Really helping people to realize who he was. So I realized that we got to start working on him because his career spanned
from 1908 to 1943. Extremely long, infuental time
in black baseball history. John Donaldson was the first scout in major
league history for the Chicago
White Sox. So they paid for his headstone.
So I came back to Minnesota and after doing the
headstone in Chicago and started to continue amass
information on this guy. And it kept coming in and coming in. And I
realized that this is one of
the greatest players of all time. Relatively nobody knows who he is. So we keep working on him everyday we find some more information on him. We started this thing called the Donaldson Network. And the Donaldson Network
is a group of historians over 500 people who have donated time
and effort to find out more about John Donaldson’s
life and his career. So far we’ve amassed 392 wins, over 4,500 strikeouts, that are
documented from newspaper
accounts. We have 160 games that he played in
that we don’t have any
strikeout totals. So if you think of the number
of games that he played in somewhere around 6,000 games
we have for him. So it’s an incredible amount of information. I realized in the same way that Steve Hoffback was putting the book together couldn’t do it all himself. Someone had to spearhead the effort and bring everybody together. Rather than do the whole landscape of black baseball. Segment it out
and try to find different eras that we could focus on, in order to make the greatest impact. And so we’re working on John Donaldson everyday
and have been since 2004. When the headstone was put in
and we keep working on him and we’ve expanded the network using
modern technology. We have a
couple of photographs that we are going
to show here. More over some very rare film footage of
John Donaldson actually playing
baseball in Fergus Falls Minnesota
on one of the first movie cameras and
that’s from 1925. Ray: Wow So we keep working on
John Donaldson and we work on in a social way.
So we’re finding lots of people I can’t go to the middle of Nebraska
where John Donaldson was in
1923. And find newspaper accounts
of him. I’ll go online and find somebody in message board
that covers a county in central Nebraska and say can you go to your downtown courthouse and find the newspaper that’s in the basement and send me a copy of it. And these things just come in. Day after day after day these
accounts of games that John Donaldson all over the midwest
and upper midwest. Ray: I was going to ask you where he played,
but he played all through the
midwest. He played primarily in the midwest, but we
have found him in 25 states.
Ray: Wow This is spread out job. Ray: And was he strictly a pitcher? He was a pitcher and an outfielder. He played centerfield
for the Kansas City Monarchs. The first year of their
existence in 1920. If he was the first scout for the Chicago White Sox.
How was it that he ended up
without even a gravestone or anything?
He didn’t have any children. There wasn’t, we are still working
on trying to establish his genealogy. We have his brother he had three brothers, or
two brothers and a sister. And so we are trying to figure out
if there are any surviving
relatives. We openly ask as many people
as we can, if you are a
relative then we want to know about this. Because it’s important that we pass on his legacy. Particularly in his family. But he is not known
to have any children. Was he a Chicago native? No he was
Glasgow, MIssouri which is in north central Missouri.
But his dream was to be a world traveler.
And we have detailed stories an account from his mother that said how she didn’t want him to play baseball because she was very religious and they didn’t want him playing baseball on Sundays. And so when he started becoming
very prolific at baseball. And his teams always wanted to play
on Sunday and his mom wouldn’t
let him. So he started sneaking out
and she found box scores in his pockets of his pants. She went down with the intention of whipping him and taking him home after church. When she got to the ball park she heard cheers for her son and she realized that this is something he could do and it actually got him out of Glasgow Missouri
and he became a world traveler. that he always wanted to. So did he become
a real star when he would come to these communities? DId people follow him? He was known as the world’s greatest colored pitcher. He was a box office draw.
This is right around the time when Babe Ruth was really starting to
become a household name. John
Donaldson in Minnesota was a household name everybody
knew who he was. Thousands and
thousands of people would come out to see him
everytime that he had an
appearance. So what they would do, they have
advertisements in the newspapers John Donaldson is coming to town.
Thousand of people would come
to town and they would make money on that.
John Donaldson’s thing was he
was a star and they knew he was major leaguer.
Much like Walt Triball and
George Wilson before; they knew he was a money draw
and they could bring money in if they brought him here.
John Donaldson pitched in over 130 cities in Minnesota. Which might be more
than any player black or white
in history. But he was segregated
he had to play in these places because he should have played on a larger
stage. That was a picture of
the Kansas City Monarchs. He actually named them the
Kansas City Monarchs the most
famous team in the negro league history. Here he is playing in North Dakota. He played all over the place. This is the first shot in Bertha.
You can see the Model A cars
around. And the thousands of people
that would come to watch him. This is in the 1920s. John Donaldson
played in Bertha in 19424 1925 and 1927.
Thousands of Ten thousand people would come into town
in to a town that had about 500
people in it. And today it’s a hamlet.
So they said ten thousand would come and watch because they knew he
was there. So you start to get
this feeling that there was a lost story. And I started out
finding out about all these
people, and all these great players that he played with and again that their stories just weren’t being told. And so we have to
start digging and we keep
digging today. Now is there any interest in this
man from major league baseball? I believe that there is. But I believe
that our story continues We are doing an effort that is
trying to shed light on this
guy that a lot of people have chosen
to forget. We are trying to turn and amass so much
information and let them decide. I believe that a large
problem in today’s research community is that people
are asked for their opinion. Was he great? Was he not great? I think he was great, but I have to be able to prove to you that he was. I can tell
that he was the greatest ever They said he was but
I need to show you that. I can’t just all of a sudden decide that he was going to be the greatest ever. I think that the effort
that we are trying to do is going to help him because
we’re amassing massive amounts
of information on him that
people generally thought was
lost. or not there. I’ve been to
a lot of states to research him and the key to John Donaldson’s
story is newspapers. And in north central Minnesota,
a man named Edward Backus made the world’s most
technologically advanced paper
mill in International Falls in 1910.
Course you knew that? I did. You did of course. Anyway the
reason that John Donaldson’s
story is survives today is we had
prolific amounts of newsprint very good paper products
and they survived. In other states that I’ve gone to
you don’t find newspaper print the actual paper that it’s
printed on didn’t survive. So we had a great story here that nobody knew about. I talked to historians from New York and
well they came to Minnesota and if you want to look for John Donaldson where would you go? Well we’d go to Kansas City and look cause that where he played in the
negro league. Well his story
starts in Minnesota and it starts in the upper Midwest. So this is where he first starting pitching in Minnesota? He started pitching all over Iowa and Missouri and then worked his way up with All Nations Team
starting in around 1911. He first started with Brown’s Tennessee Rats that venture briefly into Minnesota. His first known appearance in
Minnesota was in October o f
1911. And so we kept working on that
and building from that but his
story works into Minnesota when he joined
the All Nations Team which is
a integrated team which had players
of 6 different nationalities. They had a Chinese player. They had
an Asian player, they had a
Hawiian which wasn’t a state at that time.
So this was there attraction was they were going to bring Cubans and bring
people from all different
races together and travel around as a baseball, a headlining baseball outfit. So they come into town and they play against anybody who would play against them They had a championship team and they had
great players. Great players
that are hall of famers played
on the all nations team. Really a team, if you look on the Twins team
they have players of all
different races all different nationalities.
They play together now. This was way before 1910’s
a long time ago way before somebody
it was thought at that time that say different nationalities
can’t travel or live together. This was part
of the way. Ray: Forbidden This is the way the world was at that time. So they were breaking ground. It was really a groundbreaking group.
The great baseball segregated
all themselves. The major leagues were just white players there wasn’t anybody from any other nationality
that could do that. And so they were relegated
to go on the road. So they had a train car, private train car that they traveled around in. And they traveled town to town. That’s how he played in 130 cities in this state. You said he had 500 wins that have been recorded?
We are at 392. Which is a lot.
That ‘s 392 verified wins We have a 160 games that
we have no recorded strike outs We have a little over 4,700 strike outs that are verified so had say in a newspaper somewhere.
How does that compare to someday? He had a 31 strikeout game
in Sioux Falls. 31 strike outs. in a game. So he pitched well into extra innings.
Extra innings and multiple
strike outs in a game. and he lost 1-0.
Ray: Wow. What’s a good record for strike outs in today’s baseball games? Oh I would say that if you averaged over
5 that would be a lot. John Donaldson people said averaged
more than 10 a game for sure. People said he had 20 strike outs a game. Which is a phenomenal amount at any level. We only have a couple minutes left you said you had a video here too? Yeah, I would like to show the
video of August it was August 16, 1925. Shot by
W T Oxley in Fergus Falls. Roy: That’s a good picture. You can see the thousands of people around in their cars. They would sit right up to the baseline like that. Here’s John Donaldson playing. He was shot on this film originally
because he was famous. This is a big to do in their town to
have John Donaldson come to
town. So this is something that Oxley
decided was important. So we
took found the film footage, we restored it
and captured it digitally. so that we could get a better image of it.
One of the things in modern standpoint that is often lost is we
have lots of newspaper articles about black baseballs players and
we don’t have any of them
actually moving. That’s one of the things that John Donaldson’s film footage here is wonderful for our effort cause he can show people today, actually
how he threw the baseball and how he was. Ray: He was lefthanded obviously. He was left hand pitcher yep. Yeah, this is August 1925 in
Fergus Falls. Ray: I assume that’s him. That’s John Donaldson
in 1912 with All Nations Team The Hopkin Brothers All Nations
they started out as. And here he is with the Kansas City Monarchs.
But he is important and it’s something that we need
to talk about. We are merging research organization in that we keep finding
different things and we using
modern techniques to gather this stuff.
In the past when were trying to uncover any other player
you’d have to go those places where he played and dig through microfilm reels, or newspapers or however you get it. To try to find. We’re asking people
to send us things asking people to tell us more
about this. So we go around and ask people to tell us more. In a social way,
show us what you have and we
will add it to John Donaldson’s record. So hopefully what
we are doing is not only going
to add it to John Donaldson record. It will raise
the profile of great black
baseball players. And get some of the legacy that
was robbed from history. He was a major leaguer but never got a chance to.
Never had a chance to be a
major. So do you see a book coming out about
something like this sometime.
I see a lot of things I think a lot. We’re working
on a graphic novel. We have an artist in Kansas City
who is drawing pictures of this
era because there aren’t a lot of photographs of them.
So we are working on that. So we are moving forward we are trying to tell his story more and more. Because John Donaldson’s story is equally as compelling as a human interest story
as it is a baseball story. He had to get along and move around
in circles to make money. The
great One of the greatest parts that I think is interesting about him. He would come to your town He would strike out 20 of your best players
and then you would ask him to come back. And every year he would
come back. So that’s important
in that he knew people here, he was
entrenched in central Minnesota particularly. He played
all over the state and people knew he was. He was a big
leaguer who was excluded from
the major leagues. And he wasn’t the
only black player but he was
certainly one of the most significant. Now we do have a far reaching crowd that watches this program. And if there is anyone in the community that has had experience with him How would they contact you? If you go
to the internet if you can do
that or they can contact you. We can
find It’s relatively easy to get a hold of,
I say to people I must be one
of easiest people in the world to get a hold of.
I always have two phones with
me. I work at a large organization.
But our main hub is is Donaldson.bravehost.com which
is our webpage. Say that
again. JohnDonaldson.bravehost.com It’s a very inexpensive web
page. and that’s who we use.
Johndonaldson.bravehost.com. So it’s easy to find my e-mail address send me information about that We are constantly looking for contributors,
because the real story of John
Donaldson is hidden in all these small towns and
we need to keep talking about
it. Thank you Pete, that ‘s a very
interesting story. That’s a lot of information I’ve never
heard before. It’s an important
story it’s something we need to keep talking about. Thanks for coming on the show it’s a really good topic. You’ve been watching
Lakeland Currents where we’re
talking about what you’re talking about. I’m Ray Gildow.
So long until next time. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?