Two of the early foreign players—or gaijin—and the third and fourth African-Americans to sign to play baseball in Japan pose with the man who negotiated their contracts in 1953: Jonas Gaines, left and Larry Raines with Abe Saperstein of Harlem Globetrotters fame.
Gaines, born in either 1914 or ’15 depending on the source, was nearing the end of a long career; a graduate of Southern University, he played semi-pro ball in North Dakota then began his professional career with the Newark Eagles in 1937, went to the Baltimore Elite giants in 1938 and appeared in five East-West All-Star games. Gaines served in the US Army in WWII and finished his Negro League career with the Philadelphia Stars in 1950. He spent 1951 and ’52 with the Minot Mallards in the Manitoba-Dakota (Man-Dak) League.
He spent one season in Japan with the Hankyu Braves in the Pacific League, where he was teammates with Raines. The Braves third gaijin was another former Negro League player, John Britton. Britton and Jimmy Newberry were the first two African-American players in Japan, having signed together in 1952. Newberry, like Gaines, left after one season.
Gaines returned to the states in 1954 and led the Pampa Oilers, champions of the West Texas-New Mexico League, with 18 wins. He finished his career with the Carlsbad Potashes in the Southwestern League in 1957. He died in his native Louisiana in 1998.
Raines was a twenty-two-year-old infielder for the Chicago American Giants and hit .298 in 1952. Saperstein, who helped engineer the deal that brought Britton and Newberry to Japan, negotiated the contracts for Gaines and Raines, who according to Jet Magazine were paid $1000 a month by the Braves.
Raines quickly became a star in Japan, leading the Pacific League with 61 stolen bases in 1953; he led the league with a .337 batting average, 96 runs and 184 hits, he also finished second in RBI’s in 1954.
Raines returned to the states and signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1955. After two seasons in the minor leagues, he played in 96 games for the Indians in 1957. He appeared in nine games with Cleveland in 1958 and played in the minor leagues until 1961. Raines returned to Japan in 1962, playing one more season with the Braves. He died in Michigan in 1978.