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  #1  
Old 01-18-2016, 09:12 PM
Maris61 Maris61 is offline
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Default researching obscure college football player--1951 Topps Magic #65 Bill Matthews

Hello! I am trying to research an apparently fairly obscure American college football player by the name of Bill Matthews, also whose card (#65) in the 1951 Topps Magic seems to be the only horizontally oriented one in that set. It looks like Matthews may have been a halfback (though I forget where I read that). He played for New York University. His birth date (going backwards from his age printed on the trading card) was around 1925. Also, he hailed from Carteret, NJ. While there are several archived newspaper game reports online (along with one interesting feature from an old Univ. of Michigan student/alumni paper called “Conning the Campus,” when it seems Matthews tried to switch from NYU to play elsewhere), for me the trail has gone cold immediately after his college playing days with NYU. So far I have also had little luck with the few online reference databases that I’ve tried searching (such as www.pro-football-reference.com, http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/, and http://www.aaregistry.org). Finally, I wonder if he was African American. Almost all of the black football players from that era (even the college ones) have been pretty well documented, so chances are that he was not. . . . In any case, I am trying to dig just a bit more to find out whatever little else I can about this unknown college football player. (After the forums, my next research stop may be NYU athletics or the alumni folks.) Any help is appreciated!
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:53 PM
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wvu_class_of_2001 wvu_class_of_2001 is offline
Kin K.
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I just want to say "good luck" and that I hope you follow up on here if you find anything.

It's not card related, but there was a goalie at Colorado College in the 1950s that shares my name. It's spelled differently, but I still am intrigued. I can't find much on him either so I completely understand what you're wanting to accomplish.

Best of luck!
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Old 01-26-2016, 08:12 PM
Maris61 Maris61 is offline
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Default And another total unknown barrier breaker--1951 Topps Magic #74 Lawrence Hairston

Well thank you anyway for the well wishes, wvu_class_of_2001....
I still haven't found out any further info about the player.
In fact, I came across another early African American player/card from the same set w/ equally scant-to-nonexistent bio. info available: 1951 Topps Magic #74
Lawrence Hairston.... Even if they're "barrier breakers" (relatively) given their era, I guess the utter lack of info on these early black football players is not too unusual for this college athlete set.
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Old 01-26-2016, 11:04 PM
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Matthews career may have been cut short when the NYU football program was cancelled, March 10, 1953. The 1950-52 New York University were a less than impressive aggregate, led by Coach Hugh Devore who compiled a career record with the Violets of just 4 wins, 17 losses, with 2 ties.

One of the few highlights I could find of Matthews playing days was in a 21-13 victory over the King's Point Mariners when he scored two touchdowns, one a 78 yard punt return for a score (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 6, 1951) His play could not overcome the lackluster team, described as "a weak outfit" (Syracuse Post Standard, November 26, 1950), who "dropped six in a row" in 1951. (Syracuse Post Standard, November 25, 1951)

There is probably much more about his playing days in one of the New York city newspapers, but they are not archived online. I'll see what else I can dig up, but it may be a day or two before I can get to it. Best of luck.

Last edited by pariah1107; 01-26-2016 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 01-27-2016, 08:13 AM
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Given the era, I don't think black college athletes at northern schools is that ground breaking.

Here is a good article: http://espn.go.com/espn/blackhistory...ard&id=3254974

And a quote:

"Generally, the conferences north of the Mason-Dixon line integrated much earlier than the SEC and ACC. William Henry Lewis was an African-American All-American football player at Harvard in 1892 while attending Harvard Law School. William Edward White played baseball on Brown's 1879 team."

Great topic - I love researching the obscure players that appear on cards. I think since these players never played pro football, this is a tough assignment. Imagine a player who made all conference 10 years ago, but was never drafted by the NFL - a good player, but even in the internet age - you may not find a lot of info....
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Old 01-27-2016, 09:29 AM
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Ty
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Great article!

Omitted were colleges out West. Where, Ernie Tanner (1889-1956) integrated the Whitworth College football team (1908-09). Frequently compared to Jim Thorpe, Tanner was professed to be "the greatest athlete ever produced in the state of Washington" in his 1956 obituary. He was a phenomenal four sport/four year athlete in high school, who led tiny Whitworth College to an upset victory over the University of Oregon on the gridiron in 1908 (16-10).

He was also an influential African American labor leader on the Tacoma waterfront for decades. Just picked up the ca. 1905-07 Tacoma track photo with Ernie Tanner below (never thought I'd get an image of him, my favorite pick-up in years).
http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/ernest-c-tanner-1889-1956


Last edited by pariah1107; 01-27-2016 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 01-27-2016, 01:30 PM
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Great info - thanks Ty and nice pick up!
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:13 PM
Maris61 Maris61 is offline
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Ty, thank you for the info on NYU's program--as well as the bio and fantastic photo of Tanner.

And thanks for the other input, John. Also, I think I consider players as "barrier breaking" a little more loosely than some others would use that term. And even in baseball, for exmple, there were different periods where a few black athletes played very early before the majority colluded to ban them--and then of course another, bigger wave with integration much later on beginning w/ Robinson. But still some very good points. And it does appear that some schools were integrating well ahead of other schools (and ahead of the professional leagues). Again, though, from the article and other random sources, I'm still unclear how pervasive the integration was for many of the schools--even those that may have had, say, one player of color, which is far from demonstrating a program was peacefully "integrated." And I like how that article alludes to the difficulties of those who may have been the lone athlete of color on their team or even in their entire school. . . . Even if some school has one black football player twenty years prior, I'd still credit another black athlete as a barrier breaker if they're among the first such athlete in whatever their own region or individual school. . . . In any case, I appreciate the dialogue on this--and that ESPN article.
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Old 01-29-2016, 10:27 AM
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Thanks Maris61 - great points. 99% of my reading is focused on pro football history - so I'm in many ways not the right one to ask about anything related to college football .

Similar questions though have been interesting to me - for example I've wondered if football had a Satchel Paige type figure. I came up with Kenny Washington who appears in both the 48 Bowman and 48 Leaf set. From what I've read, he didn't get the first team AA honors he deserved and then on top of that despite interest from Halas, he didn't get drafted by the NFL. Going from memory, he basically didn't get to play in the NFL until after his prime although I do believe he did play in a Pacific Coast league. And then like you said, being the only black player couldn't have been great. I'm sure I have some of this wrong, but there was a road trip where where Hugh McElhenny would see Joe Perry at practice, but not in the hotel or at dinner. On the way home, Hugh said - "Joe, where have you been?". Turns out Perry had to stay in a private residence.

Last edited by TanksAndSpartans; 01-29-2016 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:37 PM
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Awesome points everyone. It's nice when a community of reasonable people can contribute to a board.

I recently completed a book on the integration of professional baseball by Jimmy Claxton, May 28, 1916. When the project began, I thought Claxton was an anomaly who passed as Native American, and was probably remembered more for his baseball card than integration. I did not understand the scope of both failed and "successful" attempts to integrate the game.

By the end I realized he was just the tip of the iceberg. The nearly anonymous careers of Ernie Tanner, Ike Ward (possibly the first African American manager of a white baseball team, Colville 1913-15), Bruce Petway (who integrated baseball in Oakland long before Claxton, 1904), "Big Chief" Dick Brookins, Owen "Bazz" Smaulding, John Prim, Carlisle Perry, Eddie Jackson, Charley Allen, Lang Akana, Vernon Ayau, Tom "Circus" Mooney, Albert "Smiley" Clayton, Foy Scott, etc.... Were just as fascinating and implausible. These men integrated college teams, and the lower levels of organized baseball out West prior to WW2.

Point being: that one card, the 1951 Topps Magic Bill Matthews probably represents tens or hundreds of other individuals who struggled against exclusion in sports. While an NFL career never materialized for Matthews that could be for any number of reasons. Was he Jackie Robinson? No. Was he Marion Motley or Ben Willis? No. But, I would say any individual who integrated the college or professional gridiron or baseball diamond prior to the Civil Rights Movement (1954-68) was a ground-breaker.

Last edited by pariah1107; 01-29-2016 at 01:19 PM.
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