John Donaldson with the Indianapolis ABCs (representing the Royal Poinciana Hotel), Palm Beach, Florida, 1916.
An email arrived today from Pete Gorton of the Donaldson Network asking about one Elbert R. Hall, a former player for the “New York Cuban Giants” who recommended John Donaldson to the All Nations Club in 1912. So I guess you could say he was the guy who “discovered” Donaldson. Here’s an item from the Des Moines Register in 1914 that establishes the connection:
There was indeed a player named Hall, first name unknown, who appeared for the Cuban X Giants (rather than the Cuban Giants) a few years earlier, in 1906. As it turns out, this was one Elbert R. Hall, from (at the time) Dixon, Illinois:
He left for New York in mid-April. Playing first and second base, Hall only lasted for a few weeks with the X-Giants. He appeared at second base in Quakertown, Pa., on May 12, and that’s the last game I have for him. He did reportedly organize a game between the Cuban X-Giants and the Chicago Leland Giants back in his hometown on June 5. Since no box score was printed, I don’t know if he played in the game.
Here’s what I found about him. Elbert Rufus Hall was born on May 19, 1881 or 1882, in Edina, Missouri (not far from Donaldson’s home town, Glasgow). A college graduate (North Illinois Normal School and the Dixon Business College), Hall worked as a court stenographer in Dixon. After his brief time with the Cuban X-Giants, he moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he continued his stenography career before becoming a letter carrier and eventually assistant postmaster at the Iowa State Capitol. As his entry in Who’s Who of the Colored Race attests, he was active in literary societies, musical groups, and other organizations, and was eventually president of the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP. He died on January 17, 1935, in Des Moines, and is buried in Glendale Cemetery.
(Elbert Hall’s World War I draft registration card.)
There’s no record that Elbert Hall continued playing baseball after 1906, although he must have kept track of what was going on diamond-wise. Somewhere along the line, he became aware of a devastating young southpaw named John Donaldson, thereby earning an honorable footnote in blackball history.
The All Nations Club, 1913. L to R: Art Dunbar, Frank Blattner, John Donaldson, McBride (first name unknown), George Walla, Castanier (first name unknown), José Méndez, Pedros (first name unknown), Cabinas (first name unknown), Seymour (first name unknown), Naito (first name unknown). IDs from the Donaldson Network.