Jonas Gaines

"The hard-hitting murderer's row [of Jamestown] consisting of Double Duty Radcliffe, Bill Perkins, Steel Arm Davis and Barney Brown, got only one hit of [Gaines'] delivery, that being made by Perkins."

--Valley City Times-Record

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
February, 2007

Jonas Gaines

Born: January 9, 1914 in New Roads, Louisiana
Died: unknown
Ht: 5'9", Wt: 155
Batted right and threw left
Position: pitcher
Years: 1933-1957
Teams: Valley City Hi-Liners, Bismarck Semipros, Newark Eagles, Washington Elite Giants, Baltimore Elite Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Minot Mallards, Bismarck Barons, Japan, Mexico, Cuba, Minor Leagues

A skinny, left-handed flinger, built like standout Barney Brown, Jonas Gaines was considered a Major League prospect even as he approached 40 years of age.

Gaines grew up in Louisiana, and pitched for Southern University in Baton Rouge in the early 1930s, then gained national attention in 1933 by beating the Chicago American Giants, considered the top Negro League team at the time. He was soon signed to play integrated ball in North Dakota for the Valley City Hi-Liners and, later, the Bismarck Semipros.

With Valley City in '34 at age 20, Gaines started his North Dakota career by hurling a no-hitter versus New Rockford with 10 k's and no walks. During the season, Gaines was treated rudely by Jamestown's star Double Duty Radcliffe, who belted homers in three different game against Gaines, including a grand slam into the James River to win a July 4th contest. Gaines learned quickly, though, and became an outstanding lefty with good control, and was one of the few pitchers to beat Jamestown during the season, beating the state champions, 4-3, outdueling "Lefty" Thompson, formerly of the Kansas City Monarchs, and allowing only a single hit to the "colored quartet" of Radcliffe, Perkins, Davis and Brown. It would take a commercial cleaning service to clean the bases with Gaines on the mound.

In '35 and '36, splitting time between Valley City and Bismarck, Gaines was comfortable as a second or third starting pitcher, and rarely failed to complete games he started. One exception occurred when he was scheduled to pitch against Satchel Paige at Valley City, but got hit on his throwing arm by a Paige fastball in the top of the first, and was out for a week.

In 1936, Gaines split time between the Valley City Hi-Liners and Bismarck Semipros, posting a 6 win, 0 loss record on the mound, with a total runs against average of 4.15--earned runs were not always given in boxscores, but Gaines' '36 ERA is estimated at 3.50.

At bat, Gaines batted .310 in 29 at bats found, committed only one error in the field, and was called on to pinch run several times because of his great foot speed.

In 1937, Gaines made the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles, and soon was signed by the Baltimore Elite Giants, a team he would stay with for many seasons. Gaines was part of a great pitching staff with Baltimore, joining Bill Byrd and Hall of Famer Leon Day.

Gaines had several 20-win seasons (including league and non-league games) and was considered Big League material after Jackie Robinson integrated the Majors, even though he was already 33 in '47.

After a stint as one of the first Americans to pitch in Japan, Gaines spent several successful years in the minor, going 11-7 in two seasons with the Minot Mallards (Man-Dak League) 16-7 with Pampa in the West Texas-New Mexico League in 1954, and 8-3 with a 3.27 ERA for the '55 Bismarck Barons, a team that also featured Ray Dandridge and Bill "Ready" Cash.

Gaines pitched in five East-West games, starting in '42, and posting no decisions. In All-Star competition, Gaines pitched 11-1/3 innings without allowing an earned run and k'd 6. .

Gaines retired after the 1957 season, at age 43, after going 15-17 in two seasons with Carlsbad of the Southwestern League, finishing his career with approximately 300 lifetime victories.