“John Donaldson died in obscurity, his statistics devalued because he played before baseball was integrated,” according to an essay in today’s NY Times (7/29/20) by Mary Pilon and Travon Free. “Donaldson’s story had long been buried,” they write. “It’s part of a larger story about the wall that kept Black players out of ‘the Show’— the major leagues. Even today, statistics from the barnstorming era and the Negro Leagues are played down.”  The authors urge the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to belatedly honor Donaldson.

In a previous Times piece about the great players in the Negro Leagues, Robert O’Connell described segregation by Major League Baseball as “the disgrace of the time,” with “qualified stars… barred because of their race.” O’Shaughnessy’s drew an analogy between the marginalization of players in the Negro Leagues and doctors in the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the group organized by Tod Mikuriya, MD, in 2000. The analogy is more timely than ever:

How should we describe segregation by Major League Medicine?  The findings of cannabis clinicians have been barred from the Major League record book,  PubMed Central, on grounds more sophisticated than race (which is just a crude, pseudo-scientific concept). Exclusion of the cannabis specialists from the “the medical literature” is based on the “quality of evidence” they have published.

The intellectual segregation is so strict that the word publish is inapplicable to articles not indexed in PubMed Central.  The Society of Cannabis Clinicians’ landmark survey documenting the conditions their patients were treating with cannabis may have been printed on electrobrite paper in a tabloid called O’Shaughnessy’s, and 20,000 copies may have been distributed by doctors and dispensary operators to readers, but the survey was never “published” according  to the elitist jargon of Capital-M Medicine. Nor can we cite an intriguing case note by William Toy, MD, because only material published in the literature can be “cited.”  Segregation is built into the language of Capital-S Science. Certain important sources of knowledge are beyond the pale.

The National Academy of Sciences, in developing its supposedly authoritative 2017 Report, The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, ranked case reports lower than even “low-quality evidence” in terms of credibility. Case reports were simply excluded from consideration. Also excluded were abstracts from conferences and “‘N-of-1’ studies” in which patients serve as their own controls by reporting effects during alternating periods of drug use and abstinence. O’Shaughnessy’s analysis of the NAS report reached >20,000 readers but only the SCC doctors had an interest in publicizing it.

O’Connell of the Times explains that meaningful statistical comparisons with Major League Baseball can’t be made because, “Negro leagues teams interspersed their schedules with games against semipro or independent squads; of the 200 or so games they played in a summer, fewer than half were official Negro leagues contests. Statistics and box scores even for those can be hard to track down, compiled as they were not by an official steward of the leagues but by the daily box scores of African-American newspapers like The Chicago Defender and The Pittsburgh Courier.”

This is analogous to noting that Tod Mikuriya, MD, and his colleagues in the SCC used differently worded intake questionnaires and reported their findings in a tabloid. Why disregard the clear pattern the cannabis clinicians discerned? It’s discrimination disguised as “Rigor.” Pain patients who use cannabis reported cutting back on opioid intake no matter how the SCC doctors phrased the question!

Our nation is now 13 years deeper into a terrible opioid epidemic. Studies are beginning to appear in the literature that echo the findings of Mikuriya  et al: cannabis use can reduce opioid consumption. Other academic studies are now echoing the 14-year-0ld findings reported by the hands-on specialists: cannabis ameliorates a very wide range of symptoms. Clinical trials have finally begun, and after many years—it could take decades at the current rate— every finding of benefit reported by the SCC doctors will be confirmed.  (The media will report every confirmation as a new finding because the SCC doctors, confined to the Negro Leagues, were written out of the American and National League record books.)

Here are some excerpts from today’s NYT piece:

“The first step to righting an injustice is to admit that it occurred… Mr. Gorton has so far uncovered 413 wins by Donaldson and 5,091 strikeouts. This means, according to Mr. Gorton, that Donaldson has more wins and strikeouts than any pitcher in segregated baseball — in the Negro Leagues, on barnstorming teams and in the semi-pros — before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947… Donaldson played in at least 724 cities in the United States and Canada, according to Mr. Gorton’s research, and pitched 14 no-hitters and two perfect games. A power pitcher, he was far ahead of his time in his technique.”