Jim Thorpe wowed the sporting world by winning gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Later that year, against opponents like the fabled Army football team, he scored 25 touchdowns for the Carlisle Indian School. Then Thorpe played six years of professional baseball as an outfielder for the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Braves. In 1916 his football team, the Canton Bulldogs, won their first of three unofficial national championships, and Thorpe served as the first president of what is now the National Football League. Of mixed European and Native American background, Thorpe was a popular hero; his life story was dramatized in the 1951 film Jim Thorpe, All-American, starring Burt Lancaster. Although he never got rich because of it, Thorpe is considered one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.
His Native American name was Wa-Tho-Huk… Thorpe’s Olympic medals were taken back by the Olympic Committee in 1913, when it was discovered that he had played baseball for pay (at the time the Olympics allowed only amateur athletes). The decision was controversial, and the medals were returned to Thorpe’s estate in 1983… The Pennsylvania town of Mauch Chunk renamed itself Jim Thorpe in 1954, and Thorpe’s body lies in a mausoleum there.
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