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Thorpe, Jim

The Short List
  • 1912 Olympic champion in pentathlon and decathlon
  • Only American athlete to excel at the amateur level and professional level in three different sports � track and field, football and baseball
  • Named �America�s Athlete of the Century� by resolution of the United States House of Representatives in 1999
Did You Know?
  • Trained aboard the ship on the journey to Stockholm, Sweden, for the 1912 Olympics
  • Scored 400 points higher than second place finisher, Abel Kiviat, in the pentathlon, 700 points higher in the decathlon, set records in the pentathlon and decathlon that stood for years and competed in the high jump (fourth) and long jump (seventh)
  • �He was the greatest athlete who ever lived,� said Kiviat. �What he had was natural ability. There wasn't anything he couldn't do. All he had to see is someone doin' something and he tried it ... and he'd do it better."
  • Played pro-baseball for the Giants, Reds, Braves; pro-football for Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Giants, Cardinals...organized, coached, played for the Oorang Indians, team comprised of American Indians (played for a total of six football teams)
  • Began athletic career at Carlisle Industrial Indian School in 1907 when he walked past the track and beat the school�s high jumpers with an spontaneous 5�9� jump still wearing plain clothes
  • Played running back, defensive back, place-kicker and punter�led Carlisle to the 1912 National title, scoring 25 touchdowns, 198 points over 12 games�a one-man track team who excelled any sport attempted�won a national ballroom dance contest
  • Scored a 97 yard touchdown after being called back on a 92 yard touchdown beating Army � �As one who played against him in football�I personally feel no other athlete possessed his all around abilities in games and sports�� said Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Selected as a third-team All-American in 1908 and first-team All-American in 1909, 1910 -- �He blocked with his shoulder and it felt like he hit you with a 4x4,� said Jim Wood of the Rochester Jeffersons
  • Born as a twin, but his brother Charlie died at age 9�mother, Mary James, was a Potawatomi Indian and descendent of the last great Sac and Fox chief Black Hawk�father, Hiram Thorpe, was a Sac and Fox Indian�Jim�s Indian name Wathohuck means Bright Path
  • Helped form the American Professional Football Association, which is now known as the NFL, became president of the group�statue of Thorpe stands at the entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, where he was the charter enshrine
  • Hit three home runs into three different states during a semi-pro baseball game near three state borders�hit 1st homer over the left field wall � Oklahoma, 2nd was over right field wall � Arkansas and 3rd was inside the center field wall � Texas
  • Inducted in to the College Football Hall of Fame (1951), Track and Field Hall of Fame; named AP �Most Outstanding Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century� and �America�s Greatest Football Player of the half-century� (1950)
It's Every Day

"You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world,� King Gustav V said to Thorpe after giving him his 1912 Olympic gold medals. �I would consider it an honor to shake your hand." Thorpe replied, �Thanks King.�

When Thorpe arrived home he was honored with a ticker-tape parade on Broadway. �I heard people yelling my name, and I couldn�t realize how one fellow could have so many friends,� said Thorpe. His achievements were recognized officially by U.S. President Taft, the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and others who wrote to express congratulations.

In 1913, news articles were written that Thorpe had played two semi-professional seasons of baseball. Strict rules about Olympians receiving monetary compensation for participating in professional athletics caused Thorpe to be stripped of his medals and his name removed from the record books. However, his disqualification was not according to the regulations of the 1912 Olympic rulebook stating that any protests had to be made within 30 days from the closing ceremonies of the Games. The first news article was six months after the 1912 Olympic Games had concluded. Thorpe�s medals were restored and his name put back in the record books in 1982, 29 years after his death.

�Jim was very proud of the great things he'd done,� said Chief Meyers, Thorpe�s roommate and catcher for the New York Giants. �A very proud man....Very late one night Jim came in and woke me up. ... He was crying, and tears were rolling down his cheeks. `You know, Chief,' he said, `the King of Sweden gave me those trophies, he gave them to me. But they took them away from me. They're mine, Chief; I won them fair and square.' It broke his heart and he never really recovered."

Related Links

Official Web site: Jim Thorpe


On track and field: "It was something I could do by myself, one-on-one, me against everybody else,� said Thorpe on his Web site.

Height: 6�1�
Born: 5/28/1887
Hometown: Yale, Okla.
Sport: Track and Field
Event: Pentathlon, Decathlon

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