Birthday: May 28, 1888
Quotes By Jim Thorpe
Died At Age: 64
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: James Francis Thorpe
Born in: Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma
Famous as: Athlete
Spouse/Ex-: Freeda V. Kirkpatrick, Iva Margaret Miller, Patricia Askew
father: Hiram P. Thorpe
mother: Charlotte Vieux
children: Carl, Charlotte, Gale, Grace, Jim Jr., John, Richard, William
Died on: March 28, 1953
place of death: Lomita
U.S. State: Oklahoma
education: Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania (1903-12), Haskell Indian Nations University
awards: 1911 - All American Honors
1912 - All American Honors
1912 - Gold Medal in Pentathlon at Olympics
1912 - Gold Medal in Decathlon at Olympics
Often regarded as the greatest athlete of the 20th century, James Francis “Jim” Thorpe was a versatile athlete who excelled in a wide number of sports. He was an Olympic gold medalist in pentathlon and decathlon. In addition, he had played football during his college days and also played baseball and basketball at the professional level. He started playing football while at school and eventually branched out into other sports as well. One of his earliest coaches was the football legend, Glenn “Pop” Warner who helped to mould the youngster into a formidable competitor. After his Olympic win, the King of Sweden congratulated him, calling him the greatest of all athletes in the world. However, his Olympic titles were taken away after it was revealed that he had played professional baseball before competing in the Olympics. This violated the amateurism rules of the Olympic. However, his Olympic achievements were restored to his credit 30 years after his death. The strong and healthy athlete participated in competitive sports until the age of 41. But life was not always kind to him. He struggled to make ends meet during his final years and became a victim to alcoholism which ruined his health and well being.
Childhood & Early Life
The details of his childhood are often disputed—the exact facts about his date of birth or birth place have not been verified. His parents were of mixed ancestry. His father was Hiram Thorpe, a farmer, while his mother was Charlotte Vieux. He was raised according to native Indian customs.
He went to the Sac and Fox Indian Agency School before being sent off to the Haskell Institute, an Indian boarding school in Kansas.
He became depressed after his mother died while he was still young and left home after arguing with his father; however, he returned to his father when he was 16 and resumed his education at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.
During his school days he stood out from his peers due to his phenomenal athletic abilities. The legendary football coach Glenn “Pop” Warner noticed his abilities and coached him.
Another tragedy struck Jim when his father died leaving him orphaned.
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The concrete records of his achievements date from 1907. As a student in high school and college, he participated in competitive football, baseball, and lacrosse.
He received considerable attention in 1911 when as a football player, he scored all his team’s field goals and a touchdown in an 18-15 win over the Harvard, a top ranked team in those days. His team finished the season 11-1.
Football was his favourite sport. In 1912, he scored 25 touchdowns and 198 points. The same year he started training for the Olympics in several sports: jumps, hurdles, pole vaulting, javelin, and hammer. He was noticed during the trials due to his all-round ability.
There were two new multi-events in the 1912 Summer Olympics, Sweden: the pentathlon and the decathlon. The versatile Thorpe participated in both these events, and also in long jump and high jump. He won the Gold Medals in the Pentathlon and Decathlon.
After winning the Olympics, he competed in the Amateur Athletic Union’s All-Around Championship. He competed against Bruno Brodd and J. Bredemus and won seven of the ten events contested.
In 1913, it came to light that he had played professional baseball prior to his Olympic participation. This violated the amateurism rule as athletes who had previously received any sort of payment for playing sports were disqualified from Olympics.
Thorpe did not know about this rule before participating and wrote his appeal in a letter to the Olympic Authorities. However, the Amateur Athletic Union took the case seriously and snatched away his Olympic titles.
He continued playing baseball as a free agent and joined the New York Giants with whom he played 19 games and helped to win the 1913 National League championships.
Along with his team, he joined the Chicago White Sox for a world tour where he became an international celebrity. Several people thronged the streets just to get a glimpse of the talented athlete and he had the opportunity to meet several famous people like the Pope and King George V.
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In 1917, he was sold to the Cincinnati Reds though later on he was sold back to the New York Giants. He played sporadically for them before being sold off again to the Boston Braveson in 1919. He played minor league baseball till 1922.
He continued playing football too after the Olympics. He signed with Canton Bulldogs in 1915 for a salary of $250 per game, a huge amount at that time. More than 8,000 people turned up to watch his debut match against the Massillon Tigers. He helped his team win titles in 1916, 1917, and 1919.
Thorpe was made the first president of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) which was formed in 1920. From 1920 till 1928 he played 52 National Football League games for six teams before announcing his retirement.
Awards & Achievements
He won two Gold Medals at the 1912 Summer Olympics held at Stockholm, one each in the events Pentathlon and Decathlon.
Personal Life & Legacy
His first marriage was to Iva Miller from 1913 to 1925. The couple had four children.
He married again in 1926. His second wife was Freeda Kirkpatrick who worked as a manager of the baseball team he played for. They had four sons and divorced in 1941.
He tied the knot yet again with Patricia Askew in 1945. His third wife remained with him till his death.
The Great Depression had begun by the time his athletic career ended. He struggle to make ends meet after that and took to drinking. He also suffered from cancer during his later years and was poverty stricken. He died of a heart attack in 1953.
President Richard Nixon proclaimed 16th April, 1973 as “Jim Thorpe Day” to promote the recognition of this great athlete.
This Olympic Gold Medalist, often called the greatest athlete of the 20th century, had also acted in films as an extra.