Iowa History Daily: On August 21, 1964, the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected Algona native and baseball pioneer James Leslie (J.L.) Wilkinson. Founder and executive of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, Wilkinson also found the All-Nations Baseball Club in Des Moines during 1912.
After living his earliest years in Algona, Wilkinson found a love for baseball after moving to Des Moines as a child. A star pitcher who showed great promise while playing for several central Iowa amateur, semi-pro and professional teams during the late 1800s, an injury to his throwing wrist derailed his playing career following the turn of the century.
An entrepreneur and showman by nature, he debuted a barnstorming women’s baseball team throughout the Midwest in 1909. Drawing crowds as large as 2,000, Wilkinson’s production featured a band, a male catcher who wrestled any willing attendees, and bulldog mascot.
Building on his success on and off the diamond, Wilkinson founded the All-Nations Baseball Club of Des Moines in 1912. Featuring African American, Polynesian, Asian, Native American, and white team members, the group featured Negro Leagues stars John Donaldson and Jose Mendez before the team moved to Kansas City in 1915.
A key developer of the Negro National League and founder of the Kansas City Monarchs during 1920, Wilkinson was the only white owner in the league. A trusted confidant and friend of the legendary Rube Foster, he also gained the trust and favor of his players during his tenure from 1920 to 1948. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar