Friday, April 13, 2012


Here's a story that might be instructive when it comes to the nature of history and of the Internet ... and if that scares you off, give me a minute.

In working on items for This Day in Buffalo Sports History, I came across a note on Leeland Jones. He was a former football player at the University of Buffalo, when it was called that instead of the University at Buffalo. The item said that he was the first African-American to play in a major college football game south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the United States.

If you do a search on line for him, you'll find what appears to be an item that backs that up. For example, this one. It seems, according to the stories, that Jones and the UB Bulls played at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in 1941. Jones was quietly sent off to a black hotel in Baltimore, away from all of the other players. He was then moved to a private house that was beautiful, and came with a bonus -- three daughters. Jones married one of them.

Jones went on to a distinguished career after graduation, and his son became a great football player at UB as well. It's a nice story.

Except ...

I wanted to get the date of the game so that it could be included in the master list. The UB football guide did not have the game-by-game schedule for it started at 1949. Therefore, my best hope was something on the Johns Hopkins website.

That school does a better job with tracking antiquity, with all of the games listed. First I discovered that UB and Johns Hopkins only played twice in their history. According to Hopkins, both games -- one in 1942 and one in 1946 -- were played in Buffalo. However, the UB sports information office says the 1942 meeting was actually held in Baltimore. They agree the second game was at Buffalo in 1946.

In other words, that "historic game," according to UB, was a year later than what was believed to be to be true.

The funny part to me is that is this is indeed a mistake, it's an easy one to be repeated. The 1941 story is written up once, and it gets repeated over and over again by anyone else who wants information on the subject ... including his obituary.

The Internet is a great tool for research. Still, it's good to check out what you've found. I'll have to remember that as this project goes forward.

P.S. Feel free to use the story in your journalism class, Elmer.

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1 comment:

Elmer said...

Wow, whoever wrote that about Jones being first never heard of Paul Robeson!

BTW, I may use your post in my J classes as an example of why you always check things.