Jim Thorpe

(1888–1953)

Jim Thorpe

Anecdote 1...

King Gustav V of Sweden presented Thorpe with a bronze bust during the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and told him, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.” “Thanks, king,” said Thorpe simply.

Anecdote 2...

When word got around that the Carlisle Indians had an outstanding track team, Harold Anson Bruce, coach of the powerful Lafayette College team, invited “Pop” Warner’s athletes to a dual meet on Alumni Day. Reluctantly, he agreed to pay a large guarantee. The meet was sold out. But when Bruce went to greet the visitors, he was disconcerted to find only a few young men getting off the train with Warner. “Where are your Indians?” Bruce demanded.

“I’ve got enough,” answered Warner.

“How many?”

“Five.”

“But, Pop, I’ve got a team of forty-six; it’s an eleven-event program. This is a disaster. You haven’t a chance.”

“Wanna bet?” asked Warner.

Thorpe won the high jump, the broad jump, the pole vault, the shot put, and the low hurdles, and was second in the 100. Two others ran first and second in the half-mile, the mile, and the two-mile; another won the quarter-mile, and the fifth the high hurdles. Carlisle won 71-31.

Biographical Note: 

Jim Thorpe was a U.S. athlete of Native American descent. He was an All-American football player at Carlisle University, later a professional. He won the decathlon and pentathlon events at the 1912 Olympics and was a major-league professional baseball player for six seasons. He was stripped of his Olympic gold medals when it was discovered that he had been playing minor-league baseball for pay in 1909 and 1910 and thus had lost his amateur status. Family, friends and sports enthusiasts fought to have Thorpe reinstated as an amateur and have the medals returned to him. They won those battles in 1973 and 1983, respectively.