James Francis “Jim” Thorpe (May 28, 1988 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete with Native American and European ancestry. He excelled in baseball, basketball, boxing, football, hockey and track and field. He won the pentathlon and decathlon during the 1912 Olympics but lost his Olympic titles for violating the amateurism rules because he was paid to play for two seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing for the Olympics. He played for the New York Giants (1913-1915, 1917, 1918-1919), Cincinnati Reds (1917) and Boston Braves (1919) but made such a bigger impact in the early stages of professional football. He was signed with the Pine Village Pros around the 1910s and the Canton Bulldogs in 1915. In 1983, years after his death, the International Olympic Committee restored his Olympic medals.
Greatest Sporting Achievements
Jim Thorpe won four out of five events in the pentathlon of the 1912 Olympics Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. Days later, he dominated the decathlon, winning the high jump, 110-meter hurdles and the 1,500 meters despite wearing unmatched shoes. He reached a total of 8,412.95 points after the 3-day event, the runner-up was 700 points behind him. After that event, he was declared to be the greatest athlete in the world by Sweden’s King Gustav V.
Why Was He So Good?
Jim Thorpe dominance was seen by how he did against athletes during his own era. What he accomplished in 1912 took decades to match.
What You May Not Know
- Jim Thorpe’s sneakers went missing during the final event of Olympic decathlon. He found a shoe that was too small in the trash, and borrowed an oversized shoe.
- After his athletic career, he started working various jobs for his 7 kids after 2 divorces. He worked as a construction worker, a doorman, a security guard and a ditch digger.
- Former manager of the New York Giants John McGraw sold Jim Thorpe to the Boston Braves because he said “Baseball was the only sport that didn’t come easy to him. He had been plagued with this tagline that he couldn’t hit a curveball and he was a failure in Major League Baseball.”
- His father was part Irish, part Sac and Fox Indian. His mother was part Potawatonie and Kickapoo Indian and part French.
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