In 1915, New York Giants manager John McGraw saw John Donaldson pitch for the All-Nations and remarked, “If Donaldson were a white man, or if the unwritten law of baseball didn’t bar Negroes from the major leagues, I would give $50,000 for him and think I was getting a bargain.” Donaldson had a sharp-breaking curveball, a lively fastball, and excellent control. He hit his peak with the All-Nations just before WWI. The club, founded in 1912 by J.L. Wilkinson and J.E. Gall, was composed of blacks, whites, Latins, Japanese, Hawaiians, and Native Americans. But it was more than a novelty – it was a competitive, successful team.
Donaldson was reported to have struck out more than 240 batters over a 12-game span in 1916. In one 18-inning game, he struck out 35; in a 12-inning contest, he fanned 27 more. He threw three consecutive no-hitters against semi-pro teams. He led the All-Nations to three victories in four games against that year’s Black World Champions, the Indianapolis ABC’s. In the fall, the All-Nations beat Rube Foster‘s Chicago American Giants two games out of three, with Donaldson earning both wins.
The All-Nations disbanded in 1918 when most of their quality players were drafted for WWI. Donaldson went to play for the Detroit Stars. Wilkinson regrouped his troops after the war, renamed them the Kansas City Monarchs, and entered the newly formed Negro National League. Donaldson rejoined the team as a centerfielder and pitcher. The solid rotation of Donaldson, Bullet Rogan, Jose Mendez and Rube Currie formed one of the most feared pitching staffs in the annals of black baseball.
After leaving the Monarchs in 1923, Donaldson formed the John Donaldson All-Stars and toured the Midwest against local and semi-pro teams. He went on to scout for the Chicago White Sox.