James Francis Thorpe was born in Indian Territory near the town on Prague, Oklahoma on May 28, 1887. Thorpe grew up in the Sac and Fox nation, and his Native American name was Wa-Tho-Huk or “Bright path.” Thorpe attended the Sac & Fox Agency School and Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. Thorpe also attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1904-1912. Jim Thorpe began his athletic career at Carlisle. Thorpe competed in track & field, football, baseball, lacrosse and won the 1912 Inter-Collegiate Ballroom Dancing Championship. He set 12 track and field records while competing for Carlisle. Thorpe also excelled on the football field, and led Carlisle to the 1912 National Collegiate Championship. In turn, he was awarded first team All-American Honors in 1911 and 1912.
Two new multi-discipline events were on the program at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Thorpe won gold in the pentathlon, tripling the score of the runner-up. He then went on to set an Olympic record winning the gold in the decathlon by scoring 8,413 points, a score that stood for two decades. Thorpe played professional baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for Rocky Mount and Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1909 and 1910. Once this information became public in 1913, the Armature Athletic Union withdrew Thorpe’s amateur status. The International Olympic Commission did the same, and stripped Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals and awards.
After his amateur status was removed, Jim Thorpe had one professional option: baseball. He signed with the New York Giants in 1913 and played as a reserve for the club. Thorpe’s baseball career numbers were average. He scored 91 runs, had 82 runs batted in, and finished his major league career with a .252 batting average over 289 games. Though Thorpe’s major league career ended in 1919, he continued to play minor league ball until 1922.
Jim Thorpe first played professional football with the Canton Bulldogs in 1915. Thorpe led Canton to unofficial world titles in 1916, 1917 and 1919. Canton was one of 14 teams organized into the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in 1920, which would become the National Football League (NFL). Thorpe served as the APFA’s first president while playing for Canton. Thorpe not only played for Canton, but he also coached the team from 1921-1923. Thorpe also played for the Chicago Cardinals, New York Giants and the Oorang Indians, an all-Native American team. He played well and was selected to the first All-NFL team in 1923. In 1928, while playing professional football with the Chicago Cardinals, 42-year-old Jim Thorpe retired from professional athletics. He was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Jim Thorpe passed away on March 28, 1953 after suffering his third heart attack.
Jim Thorpe's character, achievements, and
multi-sport accomplishments won him acclaim as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
The statue of Jim Thorpe stands proudly in front of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame overlooking the Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and
Mickey Mantle Plaza.