Johnny Britton, Abe Saperstein, and Jimmie Newberry (Jet, May 15, 1952, p. 51)
In 1898 Cuban independence fighters, allied with the U.S., ended Spanish sovereignty over Cuba; in 1900 the Cuban X Giants became the first African American team to play professional baseball in Cuba, inaugurating a long tradition of Negro league visits to the island. The U.S. lifted its occupation of Cuba in 1902, and by the winter of 1906/07, black American players were being signed by Cuban League teams.A half-century later a similar dynamic played itself out in Japan. The U.S. occupation formally ended on April 28, 1952; shortly thereafter minor leaguers (and former Negro leaguers) Johnny Britton and Jimmie Newberry joined the Hankyu Braves, becoming the first African Americans to play for a Japanese professional baseball team.
Although this is mostly an excuse to post the above photo (which I just ran across recently), I’ve also noticed that reference sources online don’t seem to have Jimmie Newberry’s death date. I’ve got his death certificate (which still lists him, at the age of 64, as a “Baseball Player”), which shows that he passed away at Oak Forest Hospital, Bremen Township, Cook County, Illinois, on June 23, 1983. His remains were cremated at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. And for what it’s worth, both his death certificate and his Social Security record give “Jimmie,” spelled “ie,” as his formal name.
Also, here’s another update to that old post on “Negro Leaguers in Japan”: “Rufus Gaines” was in fact Jonas Gaines, full name Jonas George Gaines, born January 9, 1915, in New Roads, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. He died on August 6, 1998, in Baker, East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. He’s buried at Port Hudson National Cemetery in Zachary, Louisiana. (Biographical Information from Social Security and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records.)
Thanks to James Tate, who wrote to ask about these guys and motivated me to get up to speed on them.
Jonas Gaines, from Kyle McNary’s Pitch Black Baseball.
UPDATE 3:10 pm Thanks to Mark. A. in the comments: Jet also published a picture of Jonas Gaines and Larry Raines inspecting a globe with Abe Saperstein in 1953 as they prepared to follow Newberry and Britton to the Hankyu Braves. Looks like they got the names a little mixed up, understandably I guess.