Day 51: Jim Thorpe – Athlete in Every Sport

Jim Thorpe (1888-1953) – pentathlete, decathlete, general track and field, professional baseball, professional football, and professional basketball.

Day57_JimThorpeTrackJim Thorpe has been named the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. In 1912, he easily won Olympic gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon and placed third in the javelin, an event he had never competed in before. When it was discovered that Thorpe had received as little as $2 a game to play baseball in North Carolina he was stripped of his medals by the IOC. Strict rules dictated that since he had received money, he was a professional and thus not qualified to have competed.

Professional Baseball 1913-1922: New York Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Braves. Scored 91 runs, had 82 RBI and hit .252 in his 289 games. As a baseball player he met the Pope, the last khedive (viceroy) of Egypt, and played before King George V.

Professional Football 1913-1928: Pine Village Pros, Canton Bulldogs in the American Pro Football Assoc which became the NFL. The team had 25 straight games without a defeat, a record that still stands. Thorpe played in 52 and was their best player.

Professional Basketball 1926-1928: Recently, it was learned that Thorpe, of Native American descent, played pro basketball for a team called "Jim Thorpe and His World-Famous Indians". Although they were not an NBA team, they were professionals.

Remaining years: The end of Thorpe’s career coincided with the Great Depression. Thorpe struggled to support his family and spent his remaining years in poverty struggling with alcoholism.

Vindication: In 1982, 30 years after his death, Jim Thorpe’s Olympic medals were re-instated. Two of his children received commemorative medals. (The two originally awarded to Jim were stolen from a museum.)

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