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Baseball legend to be honored with baseball field dedication and statue


Pete Gorton and Artist Kwan Wu with the John Donaldson statue. The finished work of art will be bronze.

John Donaldson is probably the greatest baseball pitcher of all time, and some of you may have never heard of him.

Donaldson had 5091 verified strikeouts, more than any segregated pitcher in history, played in 724 cities in the U.S. and Canada including, Verndale, Staples and Bertha. He was six foot tall and left handed.

Donaldson’s history was cast into obscurity as he was a Black man that was not allowed to play in the major leagues.

Pete Gorton, a Staples native, has spent most of his adult life tracking down information about Donaldson and teaching people the importance of his legacy.

Gorton first encountered the name John Donaldson when he was working on a section of a book called Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota, which was published in 2004.

John Donaldson, 1920, courtesy of NoirTech Research.

They needed a section on Donaldson, and Gorton being from Staples and having local ties, was asked to find the information. He worked with Glenn Johnson who oversaw the Bertha Museum at the time. And it has been his lifelong passion ever since.

“He’s somebody that everyone should know more about, and his ties to rural local Minnesota,” said Gorton. “Really nothing short of one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the sport.”

Locally, he is known for playing with the Bertha Fishermen in 1924, 1925 and 1927, attracting crowds of 5000 people to the tiny town of Bertha. The Fishermen were named after Manager Ernie Fisher. Donaldson was the only Black man on the team the first season. . . .


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