Photo via Wikimedia [public domain]
Jim Thorpe was an All-American football player, an Olympic medalist and he played for three different major league teams. James Francis Thorpe was born in a Sac and Fox reservation in Oklahoma.
Jim had a twin brother, Charlie. Jim and Charlie went everywhere together. One year, a flu epidemic went through school and Charlie caught it and died. Even though Charlie died, Jim’s dad made him stay in school. Jim wanted to go home so he ran the few miles back to his house, but Jim’s dad sent him back to school. He ran away from school four times! Jim’s dad was so mad he sent him to a school in Kansas called Haskell.
Photo via Wikimedia [public domain]
At Haskell, Jim watched the football team practice. Jim and his friends played football with a football made of sewed-together rags stuffed with grass. While Jim was at Haskell, he watched the Haskell football team play Carlisle Indians. When Jim saw the Carlisle football team, he knew he wanted to be a Carlisle Indian.
A few weeks after the game, Jim got a note that his father had been shot in a hunting accident. Along with the note, there was money so that he could catch a train and go see his dad. Instead of going to the train station and waiting for a passenger train that could take him home, Jim hopped the fence and boarded a cargo train that was passing by the school.
The driver spotted him and Jim told him what happened. The driver told him he was heading north instead of south. Because of this, Jim arrived back home two weeks later. Jim’s dad made a fine recovery.
Jim never went back to Haskell. While Jim was out of school, he helped his dad on the farm. Jim’s mom was expecting a baby. When the baby was born, Jim’s mom died.
Soon after Jim’s mom’s death, Jim went back to school. A new school was opening a little way down the road. That school had sports just like Haskell. Jim mainly watched the other kids doing the high jump. The principal saw Jim watching and told him to give it a try. Jim easily cleared the bar no matter how high they moved it.
A few weeks later, a Carlisle Indian scouted Jim. Jim told his dad that he got recruited. His dad was happy about it and soon after, he was on the train to Carlisle.
After Jim got all settled in, he played field hockey. One of Jim’s roommates said, “Jim, if you keep this up, Pop Warner will notice you and make you one his boys.” Being one of Pop’s boys was really good - you got better food and got paid for playing sports.
In Jim’s second year, Jim got a letter that his father died of blood poisoning. Jim had to stay in school because the funeral would be done by the time he got back home.
One day, Jim and his friend Billy were playing catch while the varsity track team was doing the high jump. At the end of the practice, the track kids were saying, “This is the highest we can go.” Then Jim said, “Can I give it a try?” Jim took a running start and cleared it easily.
The next school day, one of the assistants at Carlisle gave Jim’s teacher a note. The teacher told Jim to report to Pop Warner’s office. When Jim reported to his office, Pop asked if that what he was wearing when he jumped yesterday. Jim was wearing overalls and a t-shirt. When Jim said “yes,” Pop told him he broke a school record and that he was on the track team.
Jim trained with Ex. Ex was one of Pop’s old players and one of the best too. Jim trained with him for one year. In that year, Jim decided to play football. Pop Warner did like that at all. He did not want Jim to get hurt. With a smile, Pop assigned Jim to be the kicker and punter.
Throughout the practices, Jim would ask Pop if he could run the ball. Finally Pop allowed Jim to run down the field and dodge tacklers during practice. Nobody tackled Jim. Jim did it again and still no one tackled him.
Jim was the back up running back behind Pete Hauser. (That was supposed to be the best team that Carlisle had ever had.) That year, Jim did not play much. But he still played and showed what he could do. He scored three times that season in spite of the fact that he hardly ever played.
Carlisle only lost one game in that season. During that game, it was raining so hard it was hard to see. Carlisle mainly passed the ball that season, but during the rain they were forced to run the ball.
The football team made a lot of money that season and everyone on the team got some. Then track season rolled along and Jim medaled a lot of his meets. Ex told Jim he could be setting records but Jim took it easy when saw he had the lead. After track season, Pop Warner told Jim to try out for the Olympics. Jim did not make it though.
Then Jim decided to play baseball. Pop Warner was happy to see Jim. Jim was a better base runner and pitcher than anyone else. Jim only got to play in a few games that season because the track season went into the baseball season. When football season came back around, Jim was exited. This year he got to start. Jim was amazing! He scored in almost every game. He was the leading rusher and the best player on the team.
After the season, Jim and Billy went back to Oklahoma to visit family. Billy was Sac and Fox too. Jim wanted to see his family badly - especially his sister Mary. Mary had an accident and she barely could talk and hear. Jim had an idea - he was going to play baseball so he could make money to help his family. When Jim arrived back at Carlisle, he started track and was medaling like crazy. When baseball was about to start, Jim went to Pop Warner. Jim wanted to play baseball instead of track but Pop somehow talked him into staying in track.
After track season, Jim played baseball. After the school year, Jim decided not to come back to Carlisle.
He went to a baseball program in Carolina for fifteen dollars a week. Jim did very well but the other players did not take it seriously. Pop Warner tried to get Jim back to Carlisle but it did not work. Jim still had two years of eligibility at Carlisle though.
Jim took some money and bought cattle and a lot of corn and hay for the winter. The next year, Jim got talked into staying at Carlisle for one last year. Although Carlisle dropped baseball, Jim still played football and track. The football season went well for Jim. He had great season and Jim became an all-American.
Jim met a girl named Iva and Jim went on to marry her. The track season also went well for Jim. Jim was medaling a lot like usual but Jim was better than before too. The Olympics were happening that year (the summer Olympics happen every four years).
Jim and a Hopi Indian from Carlisle tried out for the Olympics. They both made it. Jim had a great time at the Olympics. He won a couple of gold and some silver medals.
When Jim arrived back at Carlisle, there were newspapers with him on the front page. A few months later, Jim graduated from Carlisle.
Photo via Flickr [public domain]
Three things went very well for Jim. He was a great football player, he went pro in football, and he played for the New York Giants. The East Carolina baseball league had scouts at Jim’s baseball games. Jim got pulled up to the Major leagues. Jim played for three teams and he did really well as a pitcher, however, Jim was a better football player. When Jim retired, he became the president of the N.F.L.
When Jim was at school, on the farm, in the major leagues, and in the N.F.L., Jim had to overcome his parents’ deaths - but that didn’t stop him from playing football and baseball. Another hardship was that Jim sustained a hurt shoulder while playing baseball. Jim was great pitcher - except during that season.
I admire how Jim played more than two sports because I do too. Another thing is that he plays football and that was his favorite sport. Football is my favorite sport. Jim was a great running back, pitcher, and one of the best ever at the high jump.
Jim died March 28, 1953 of a heart attack- his third one. A lesson I learned from Jim was that no matter how far down you are or how bad the weather is, never give up.