Sunday, July 10, 2016

Book Review: Jim Thorpe Legendary Athlete

Native American Biographies: Jim Thorpe Legendary Athlete, Barbara Long, Enslow Publishers, Springfield, NJ, 1997.

When Jim Thorpe participated in the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, the king of Sweden declared Thorpe the greatest athlete in the world.  He won the pentathlon and the decathlon.  He came home and proved his athleticism by being a pioneer in professional football, and also playing professional baseball.  Thorpe excelled at football, at Carlisle University, playing for Pop Warner.  He would play defense, offense and kick.  He excelled at kicking.  As a result he scored more points than the normal athlete.  He would run for a touchdown, and also kick field goals.  Even after retiring he entertained crowds at halftime by showing his kicking prowess, standing in the middle of the field and kicking in turn both directions. 
Jim Thorpe was of Fox and Sauk ethnicity.  He is a descendant of the famous Sauk Chief Black Hawk.  He had a twin brother, but when he went hunting with his father his brother was left behind because he was ill.  He would die before they could see him again. 
Thorpe would marry three times, and was the father of 8 children.  His oldest son died of juvenile paralysis and Thorpe described this as the hardest time of his life.  He had three more daughters with his first wife, four sons with his second.  When he was elderly he remarried his third wife.  His first two marriages ended in divorce.  It is hard to maintain a family and travel as much as is required of an athlete. 
A few years after winning the two Olympic gold medals, it was discovered that Thorpe had been paid a nominal fee to play baseball.  As a result he lost his amateur status and the medals were taken away.   They were given back to the family after his death, and an appeal based on the Olympic rules that medals could not be taken away so long after they were given. 
At times Thorpe struggled to make a living after he retired form sports. 

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