Jim McDonald was born on May 17, 1927, in Grants Pass, Oregon. The McDonalds moved to California when Jimmie was young and he attended grammar school in San Jose and both junior high and high school in Modesto. Jimmie was a talented baseball player in high school, and also played football and basketball. He pitched Modesto’s American Legion junior baseball team into the state finals. A halfback on the football team, he was named Central California’s most outstanding athlete in the fall of 1944.
By the time Jimmie graduated, the Boston Red Sox offered him a better deal than the other clubs did, so he signed a contract and went to spring training with them in 1945.
The Red Sox organization placed him with Class-A Scranton in 1945. He was dropped down a class in 1946, placed with the Class-B Lynn (Massachusetts) Red Sox. It was back to Scranton in 1947 and 1948, where he pitched very well again. The Scranton Miners won the Eastern League pennant in 1948.
Jim was placed with Double-A Birmingham in 1949 and had another very good year. In 1950, he was invited to spring training in Sarasota with the Red Sox, and promoted to Triple-A where he pitched for the Louisville Colonels.
As the season progressed, the Red Sox brought him up to Boston in July. His big-league debut came in Detroit in July, appearing in nine games for the Red Sox in 1950, all in relief. His only decision was a win in August at Sportsman’s Park against the St. Louis Browns. He worked 19 innings, with a 3.79 earned run average to go with his 1-0 record.
Some saw good things for him in 1951. He trained with Boston again in 1951, but on April was sent to Louisville. Then he was traded to the St. Louis Browns in July.
The Yankees liked him and dealt for him in November. For the next three seasons, he worked both as a starter and as a reliever for the Yankees, but was used much more in relief in 1952. In 1953, he started in 18 of 27 games and won half of them. He was named the starter for Game Five in the 1953 World Series and was credited with the Yankees’ 11-7 win over the Dodgers.
His most successful year was 1954, and his best effort of the year was his first, a one-hit shutout of the Red Sox on Patriot’s Day in Boston. In November 1954, he was traded away, part of a 17-player deal with the Baltimore Orioles, which included eight players to be named later, four from each team. Then in a another deal, the Orioles sold Jim to the Denver Bears.
He finally got to play on the West Coast, for Vancouver, for the first half of the 1956 season. In July, the Chicago White Sox bought his contract and he pitched for the White Sox in 1956, 1957, and 1958, but he didn’t win a game. He opened the 1957 season in Chicago, but when the minor-league season began, he was optioned to Indianapolis, returning in September. He was with Indianapolis after appearing in three April games for the White Sox in 1958, his last in the big leagues. He soldiered on, with another season in Indianapolis and then a 1960 season split between Miami and Charleston.
Jim McDonald died in Kingman, Arizona on October 23, 2004, at the age of 77.