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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grainy 39-second film offers rare glimpse of famed black baseball player John Wesley Donaldson

The first time Pete Gorton met Rich Oxley, Oxley told him not to say a word.

“Just watch,” Oxley said as he turned on a film projector at his house in White Bear Lake.

The grainy 39-second black-and-white film that followed showed a loose and limber fireballer hurling a fastball in 1925.

...Oxley realized he had a key piece of Donaldson’s story in his basement. Those 39 seconds of film - the only known reel ever shot of Donaldson - were carefully preserved in a dark-green metal film canister.

Oxley’s grandfather, W.T. Oxley, a professional photographer in Fergus Falls, Minn., in the early 1900s, shot the footage with a hand-cranked 16mm movie camera.

It is believed to have been shot during an Aug. 16, 1925, game at the Fergus Falls Fairgrounds. Donaldson pitched for the Bertha, Minn., semi-pro baseball team. Donaldson and the Bertha Fishermen beat the Battle Lake Rattlers 11-2. Donaldson had 18 strikeouts in the game; the film footage shows nine seconds of his pitching.

“Finding this film is the sports world’s equal to finding the Zapruder film,” Gorton said, referring to the reel of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. “It is cinema verite.”

Thanks to Fuzzy.

Repoz Posted: July 28, 2011 at 12:30 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, media

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   1. winnipegwhip Posted: July 28, 2011 at 02:58 PM (#3887507)
“Just watch,” Oxley said as he turned on a film projector at his house in White Bear Lake


Go Bears.
   2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:29 PM (#3887538)
Very cool.

Kind of disappointing that the film clip isn't attached to the article in any way, though.
   3. Craig in MN Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:32 PM (#3887542)
John Donaldson was the marquis player for my hometown ballteam in the 20's (along with Swede Risberg). Signing him away from another small town team was quite a coup. He was a great player and quite well known for the time, and he deserves his fair share of attention. But the quote about this film being comparable to the Zapruder film is nuts.
   4. rudle Posted: July 28, 2011 at 03:34 PM (#3887544)
Here's what I believe to be the video described in the article. I found it here: http://johndonaldson.bravehost.com/dn.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrD7hGRLCvI&feature=player_embedded
   5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 28, 2011 at 04:06 PM (#3887592)
Thanks for the link.
   6. Poster Nutbag Posted: July 28, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3887629)
Just plain awesome!
   7. winnipegwhip Posted: July 28, 2011 at 07:00 PM (#3887780)
Hap Felsch actually played in Virden Manitoba in the 1920's. A common story was once there was a respected local umpire who was taking abuse from Felsch during a game. At one point the umpire called time, took off his mask and stated for all to hear:

"Mr Felsch. I am an honest man that is why I am here. You are a dishonest man. That is why you are here."

There is no record of any reply from Hap.
   8. Willie Mayspedester Posted: July 28, 2011 at 07:20 PM (#3887798)
Meh he's no Josh Donaldson
   9. Dan Evensen Posted: July 28, 2011 at 10:34 PM (#3887959)
Kind of disappointing that the film clip isn't attached to the article in any way, though.

I found it after clicking through three or four different links. Here it is.
   10. joker24 Posted: July 29, 2011 at 07:25 AM (#3888096)
I found it after clicking through three or four different links. Here it is.


You can really tell what an explosive athlete he is, just raw tools. Really played a similar game to a cross between Frank Thomas, Fred McGriff, Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin and Carl Crawford.
   11. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:09 AM (#3888104)
Also I bet he could dance like MC Hammer, beatbox like Biz Markie, and orate like Jesse Jackson.
   12. God Posted: July 29, 2011 at 10:43 AM (#3888111)
“Finding this film is the sports world’s equal to finding the Zapruder film,” Gorton said

No, it isn't. But it's a cool little film.

I'm surprised at how many white folks were at the game.
   13. Craig in MN Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:45 PM (#3888203)

I'm surprised at how many white folks were at the game.


The game was played in rural Minnesota....as were most of Donaldson's games....what do you expect? A lot of the teams he was on were all white except him....he was brought in as the hired gun for local teams. It would be fascinating to see how everyone handled the racial issue. He played for several years on the same teams, so presumably everyone tolerated everything fairly well.
   14. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:09 PM (#3888561)
“Finding this film is the sports world’s equal to finding the Zapruder film,”

Really? Wouldn't a better example be, say, Mays hitting Chapman?
   15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:23 PM (#3888575)
A lot of the teams he was on were all white except him....he was brought in as the hired gun for local teams


Interesting - did not know that.
   16. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 29, 2011 at 09:31 PM (#3888584)
Really? Wouldn't a better example be, say, Mays hitting Chapman?

Now that you mention it, Bob Shawkey looks a lot like Harold Doyle...

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