Born to an impoverished family on Sac-and-Fox Indian land, Jim Thorpe overcame adverse circumstances to excel as an amateur and as a professional in three sports; track and field, football and baseball. Thorpe, who was voted `Athlete of the First Half of the Century' by the Associated Press almost fifty years ago, is the only American athlete ever to excel at this level in three major sports.
As a student at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, Thorpe proved his athletic ability early on. One anecdote recalls how the 5-foot-9 1/2 inch, 144-pound Thorpe almost single-handedly overcame the entire Lafayette track team at a meeting in Easton, Pennsylvania, winning six events. Also while attending the Carlisle Indian School, Jim Thorpe established his amateur football record playing halfback, defender, punter, and place-kicker. In 1911, he was named an All American.
In 1912, he represented the United States and the Sac-and-Fox Nation in the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. To this day, Thorpe is the only athlete to win gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon. After his Olympic feats in Sweden, Thorpe retured to Carlisle's football team and was named an All-American again.
In 1913, Thorpe left amateur athletics and signed a $5,000 contract to play baseball with the New York Giants. As an outfielder with the Giants, and later with the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Braves, his best season was his last one, when he batted .327 in 60 games for Boston.
In 1915, Thorpe agreed to play professional football for the Canton Bulldogs. Thorpe went on to become a key part of this team as it was recognized as the `world champion' in 1916, 1917, and 1919. Thorpe's professional football career later included stints with Cleveland, Rock Island, the New York Giants, and the Chicago Cardinals. In 1920, Thorpe became the first president of the American Football Association, which was later to become the National Football League. Today, he is recognized as a founding father of professional football.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon honoring Jim Thorpe's daughter, Grace, at the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall in the Carbon County, Pennsylvania, a town named for the great athlete. Grace Thorpe has traveled around the country asking people to sign petitions declaring her father athlete of the century. She plans to send the petition to cable sports networks and national sportswriters. As Jim Thorpe Area Sports Hall of Fame president, Jack Kmetz has noted, Thorpe unfortunately missed out on the modern-day media blitz that surrounds popular athletes today. Nonetheless, I promised Ms. Thorpe and the people of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania that I would introduce this resolution which I hope will raise awareness of this true legend's achievements and give him the recongnition he deserves.