Winning Olympic Gold Wearing Different Sized Shoes Found in a Dumpster – The Amazing Jim Thorpe

Winning Olympic Gold Wearing Different Sized Shoes Found in a Dumpster – The Amazing Jim Thorpe

When people make lists of the greatest athletes
of the 20th century, they are populated with the usual suspects: Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth,
Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Jim Brown, Pele… but there is one name that
should always make the list even though many people, even the biggest sports fans, may
not recognize it, or if they do, they know little about the man- Jim Thorpe. The story of Jim Thorpe is one of determination,
triumph, tragedy, racial prejudice, controversy, and extraordinary athletic achievement. Born approximately May 28, 1887 (the exact
date has been disputed) in a small one-room cabin near the town of Prague, Oklahoma, Jim
was the son of a farmer named Hiram and a Potawatomie Indian named Mary James, who was
a descendant of the famed Native American warrior Black Hawk. Jim, or by his Native American name Wa-Tho-Huk
meaning “Bright Path,” grew up on Native American land fishing, hunting, playing sports,
and learning from tribal elders. He was actually born a twin, having a built-in
best friend and brother to play with. Unfortunately, when Jim was only nine, his
twin brother died from pneumonia. The stress of losing his brother caused Jim
to act out and he was sent to an “Indian” boarding school in Lawrence, Kansas. A few years later, his mother would die while
giving birth. Shortly thereafter, his father died as well. Left an orphan, Jim fled his hometown and
began attending Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school was founded by United States General
Richard Henry Pratt in 1879 with the purpose of integrating Native Americans into the American
way of life by “eliminating their Indianness.” It was there that a 17-year old, depressed
Jim Thorpe walked by the school’s track & field practice on the way back to his dorm. He saw all the boys running and jumping and
later said he thought to himself “I can do that better than they can.” Spotting a high jump bar set at five feet
nine inches, and despite wearing heavy overalls, he leaped and cleared the bar. While most of the boys and their coaches were
not paying attention, one coach was. His name was Glen “Pop” Warner and he
coached the football team. Jim soon became, with the help and coaching
of Pop Warner, a multi-sport star in high school and later in college. He dominated in the high jump, lacrosse, baseball,
football, and even ballroom dancing, winning the intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship. He was simply unstoppable with a football
in his hands, leading his squad to an 18-15 upset over top-ranked Harvard in 1911. In 1912, Jim was literally all over the field,
leading his football team to the NCAA championship. While playing running back, defensive back,
placekicker, and punter, he scored a record 25 touchdowns that season. He began to get national attention, but his
star really started rising with his performance in the 1912 Olympics. Jim Thorpe arrived in Stockholm for the V
Olympiad having qualified in four different events; the decathlon, long jump, pentathlon,
and the high jump. He won gold in the (now defunct event) pentathlon,
winning four of the five events (long jump, discus throw, sprint, and wrestling). The only one he didn’t win was the javelin,
which he’d never competed in before showing up at the Olympics. Nevertheless, he finished third in that one. That same day, he finished fourth and seventh
in the individual events of long jump and high jump, respectively. And we should probably mention that shortly
before it was his turn to compete, someone stole his shoes. He managed to find some more in a garbage
bin. They were different sizes and didn’t fit perfectly,
but he made it work by wearing extra socks on the one foot to make up for the ample room
in the shoe. But what he is truly remembered for was his
performance in the decathlon. He destroyed the competition setting a new
record (8,412.955 points) that would stand for 15 years and is still to this day only
about 713 points behind the current world record holder for the event, Kevin Mayer. For those not familiar, the decathlon consists
of 10 events, as follows (including Thorpe’s results for the event):
• 100 meter: tied for third place with 11.2 seconds
• Long jump: third place at 6.79 meters • Shot put: first place at 12.89 meters
• High jump: first place at 1.87 meters • 400 meter: fourth place at 52.2 seconds
• 110 meter hurdle: first place at 15.6 seconds
• Discus throw: third place at 36.98 meters • Pole vault: tied for third place at 3.25
meters • Javelin throw: fourth place at 45.7 meters
• 1,500 meter: first place at 4 minutes 40.1 seconds
At the outset of the 1912 Olympics, local hero Hugo Weislander was the heavy favorite
to win the decathlon. In the end, Weislander finished in second
place with 7,724.495 points, 688.46 behind Thorpe. The bronze medalist that day, Charles Lomberg,
finished just a hair under 1000 points behind Thorpe at 7,413.510. Shortly after this competition, Thorpe managed
to break the Amateur Athletic Union’s All-Around Championship record by winning seven of the
ten events in their competition and placing second in the three he didn’t win. The new record was 7,476 points, beating the
old record (7,385) held by five time Olympic Gold Medal winner Martin Sheridan. After watching Thorpe compete, Sheridan stated:
“Thorpe is the greatest athlete that ever lived. He has me beaten fifty ways. Even when I was in my prime, I could not do
what he did today.” Jim Thorpe as a hero wouldn’t last long. Several months after Thorpe’s gold medal
wins in the Olympics, Worcester Telegram writer Roy Johnson uncovered that in 1909 and 1910,
Thorpe had been paid to play minor league baseball. This violated the Olympics strict amateur
rule. Despite this being a common practice for collegiate
athletes of the day (most of whom used aliases to avoid being caught) and making only $15
a week (about $400 today) to help pay bills, the Olympic committee stripped Thorpe of his
gold medals. Upon being asked why he did it, Thorpe wrote
“I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy
and did not know all about such things. In fact, I did not know that I was doing wrong,
because I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did
not use their own names…” Just over a week after being declared no longer
an amateur, Thorpe signed with John McGraw and the New York Giants to play pro baseball. Despite being the athlete he was, hitting
a round ball with a round bat is a whole different beast than many athletic sports, and it certainly
didn’t help that Thorpe hadn’t played in over two years, which contributed greatly
to him struggling mightily in the early going. He became more of a sideshow than an actual
contributing player. However, being the only athletic sport at
the time one could actually make a good living playing, Thorpe chose to continue on with
baseball until 1919, playing outfield for the Giants, Reds, and Braves, with his best
season in the Majors being his last in 1919 where he batted .327 (three-twenty-seven)
in 122 games with 318 at bats, 14 doubles, 6 triples, 2 home runs, and 14 stolen bases. In 1920, at the age of 33, he would go back
to playing football, eventually becoming the first president of the American Football League,
which later would evolve into the NFL. In the off-season in at least three of the
years (1926-1928), he spent his time touring around playing professional basketball with
the “World Famous Indians”. By 1928, at the age of 41, Jim Thorpe’s
athletic career was over. As with many athletes when the attention,
competition, and fame fade, Thorpe struggled. Alcohol, always part of Thorpe’s life, became
a fixture. To make money, he took odd jobs under aliases
like ditch digger, deckhand, and bouncer. He also used his famous face to earn roles
as an extra in Hollywood Westerns as an Native American chief. By 1950, he was flat broke. But Jim Thorpe’s time in the spotlight wasn’t
quite over. Despite his hardships, the Associated Press
named Jim Thorpe the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. In 1951, Burt Lancaster portrayed him in the
1951 movie “Jim Thorpe All-American.” The world hadn’t forgotten about Jim Thorpe
after all. In March of 1953, while at home in his trailer
with his third wife, Patricia, in Lomita, California, Thorpe’s heart gave out on him
and though he was briefly revived, he ultimately passed away. He died poor, but having had one of the most
remarkable sports careers of any athlete in history, dominating several Summer Olympics
track and field events and later playing professional baseball, football, and basketball. And, of course, he was also an intercollegiate
ballroom dancing champion. Bonus Fact:
• When Thorpe passed away, there was a rather odd controversy in regards to the burial of
his body. His third wife, Patricia, refused to have
his body buried in a traditional Native American ceremony, despite the insistence of Jim’s
children. Instead, she wanted a Catholic service and
the state of Oklahoma to build a memorial to her late husband. When the state balked, she literally took
Thorpe’s body on a country-wide tour, looking for the right burial place that would give
into her demands. Finally, the small eastern Pennsylvania towns
of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk agreed to unify, accept the body, and change their
name to “Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania” in hopes that it would bring in tourism and the
NFL Hall of Fame. The NFL Hall of Fame never ended up there
(rather, in Canton, Ohio), but to this day Jim Thorpe is still buried in a small Pennsylvania
town that bears his name, despite having no connection to him during his life.

100 Replies to “Winning Olympic Gold Wearing Different Sized Shoes Found in a Dumpster – The Amazing Jim Thorpe”

  1. Everybody should see the Bert Lancaster movie about Jim Thorpe. My parents thought his story was an important part of my education.

  2. Put the number on sceeen. Boring to listwn 7778. 5 points won by 77736.4piibts when he got 8827.2points
    You see it isnt as good as just showing it or do you want longer video?

  3. Wait, didn’t he use his opportunity to represent the US on the world stage to attack the US President based on completely imaginary and delusional perspectives or even make said opportunity into a self-promoting ego-trip?

    Please note the above comment is sarcasm.

  4. I found this video very interesting. Being from PA and visiting Jim Thorpe in the past, I never knew who he was or why he had a town named for him. Thank you for the education today!

  5. I always felt the "strict amateurism" policy was stupid-quite a few greats were denied medals because of this.

  6. Even without his many jaw-dropping disadvantages, it's hard to argue against him being the top all-around athlete of the 20th century.

  7. I feel like you should have been able to come up with a better name for this video Simon, other than that it was another great video.

  8. Thorpe's two olympic gold medals from 1912 were posthumously restored to him in 1982 by the IOC, upon the request of USOC president William E. Simon. Too late for Jim, the restoration does provide some justice for his memory. Thorpe is in the Football Hall of Fame and the Track and Field Hall of Fame.

  9. As part native American myself im very proud of him,and i feel he was the greatest althelete who ever lived

  10. Also, Worcester is pronounced 'Wooster" in Massachusetts. Just pointing it out, and trying not to be a dick about it.

  11. Living in Kennett Square PA,
    I visited Jim Thorpe's grave several times. It's a shame he died penny less.
    RIP my friend.

  12. When I was a kid growing up in the 60's and 70's I once asked my Dad who was the best Pro football player that ever played…He told me Jim Brown would get most people's vote but he said his would be Jim Thorpe…he then went on to tell me a bit about him and his Olympic gold medals and then said in his eye he was the best athlete ever. As we had rumors of a touch of Indian blood on my Dad's side and since I pretty much lived to play football and hunt/explore in the woods I considered myself with some Indian athleticism and comfortableness in the woods Jim Thorpe became my boyhood idol and Hero.

  13. Bonus fact #2: Jim Thorpe's 1912 Olympic decathlon performance was so strong, it would have won a silver medal in 1948, thirty-six years later.

    Bonus fact #3: After Thorpe's medals were stripped from him, the runners-up declined to accept his golds. They were restored to him in 1984.

  14. Great little town (Jim Thorpe PA or Mauch Chunk PA) with lots of history that warrants it's own video (hint hint). The Molly Macguires are in many stories, too (including the hand print in the jail cell that keeps reappearing, regardless of the number of coats of paint over it).

  15. Bravo Simon, this was a good story worthy telling and talking about. Thank you for bringing it up to all of us.

  16. There's also a college football award named after him. Given out to the top Defensive Back. That's the only reason why I knew his name before. Thank you for making this video.

  17. Today I found out exactly why my wonderful Mom loved Jim Thorpe. Damn. I've never heard most of this. Mama grew up very poor in Oklahoma, her white Dad died when she was 5, her "half-breed" Cherokee Mama died when she was 11. She and some of her siblings survived because they had hazel eyes, not dark brown like their mother. She was separated from her other siblings when she was orphaned. Her father was a Mason, so she was lucky and went to a Masonic orphanage with her blue-eyed brother and her younger sister where they received a good education. The brown-eyed kids had to fend for themselves. I'm proud that most did okay, the ones that survived childhood. My uncle "Doodle" became a street kid after his parents died. He had scarlet fever when he was a toddler, had brain damage and partial paralysis. He sold pencils and got coins tossed at him for "performing" for cruel people. President Johnson brought him dignity. With Medicaid and housing assistance, his life was changed. He met a lovely lady, they got married and spent the rest of their lives happily together in a modest home where they helped others learn independence (which was illegal before, because our government used to outlaw disabled people from marrying). Thank you for this, Simon. I'm proud of my Mom and the family she came from. Adversity can break a person, or give them the grit to achieve. I've seen both.

  18. I’d like to hear a podcast about how Simon has probably never seen any of the movies that he just presented on the TopTenz channel ??? I’m sure Davens seen them all

  19. Was his third wife crazy? She stole his body and traveled with it? Why didn’t the authorities do something?

  20. Story of my life… …minus the accomplishments… …or athleticism… …or Indian heritage… But yeah, basically me!

    Who steals a shoe?

  21. This made me so elated! Thank you for covering such a prominent Indigenous American…it means the world to us to have our stories told. Not sure how there isn’t a movie aboot him yet.

  22. In Oklahoma, Prague is pronounced with a long a, Praygue. Prague in the Check Republic and Prague Oklahoma are sister cities. There is a yearly Kolache festival in Oklahoma, with polka in the street and all kinds of "Bohemian" treats, music and food. It used to be very worth going to, but I haven't been back to Oklahoma for a decade or so. It is where I am from and that is so true, It's a great place to be from. The "Christians" and Repubublican'ts are so intolerant of anything and anyone who is different and pass laws to make it hard for people who are gay or female.

  23. My father told me this story as a kid. He always said he was the greatest Okie ever born. Not sure if this is true but I was always told that when the king of Sweden told Jim, “You are the greatest athlete to have ever lived.” Jim looked at him blushed a bit and said, “Thanks king.” So perfect for a poor Okie Indian.

  24. Mauch Chunk was also where 4 of the Molly Maguires were executed. Allegedly the handprint of one left a mark on a wall that still remains today…even after the wall was torn down and rebuilt. I've never taken the tour despite going there quite often, as recently as last week.
    In the '90s it was a nice little town to visit and walk around. But, by the 2000s it became a popular place to visit. During summer and fall it can take a half hour to get through town.
    It was one of the wealthy resort areas back in the day, and is where the first "roller coaster" was located. It was a gravity railroad on the side of the mountain built to carry coal down to the canal and railroad. Once the mine closed, they converted the cars to carry people and started giving rides. Tourism died after the Great Depression and by the world wars, the track, cars, and equipment went for scrap. There is an effort to restore the line, but its currently a walking path.

  25. Jim Thorpe for half time entertainment during his pro football career would place kick to one goal post and then turn around and drop kick to the other side.

  26. Jim Thorpe has a school (I believe a high school) named after him on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He may not be the first athlete to have that honor, but it isn't that common.

  27. I thought it was a crime that Jim Thorpe didn't come in first in Sports Illustrated greatest athletes of the twentieth century edition.

    Could you also do a video on Babe Didrickson Zaharias?

  28. Suggestion for a future video.
    Why is it that dogs hate cats and seem to lose their minds when a cat is in sight?

  29. That wife sounded like a chore to live with. The only reason he got a notable grave is because she wanted to cash in.

  30. Jim Thorpe House is in the small town of Yale, Oklahoma. This isn't his childhood home, but a house he bought and lived in with his wife and children for a few years. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and functions as a small museum to Thorpe.
    There's also a small cabin in Yale that is allegedly his childhood home.

  31. I hope his descendants invite tribal leaders/etc in to perform traditional rights over his grave. (Damn effing wife!)

  32. His statue is was the first thing you'd see when entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame, they changed the entrance, so, it's still there gracing the rotunda, but, i think you enter to the right of him now.

  33. The title is confusing. I thought it implied that he himself was found in a dumpster, wearing different shoes, and that the video would be addressing his murder.

  34. I think this is the first time Ive heard a Potawatomi mentioned in a video I hadnt intentionally searched for. If your up for it, can you do a Biographic an Main Poc or Black Hawk?

  35. I live in Canton Ohio, I literally just drove past the hall of fame, as you were saying where it was located.

  36. "When people make lists of the greatest athletes of the 20th century… there is one name that should always make the list, even though many people – even the biggest sports fans – might not recognize it."

    Granted, I work in the world of sports, so my contemporaries do not represent the general population, but I don't know very many people who WOULDN'T put Thorpe among the top five. In fact, when ESPN did its SportsCentury list about 20 years ago, my old college roommate and I were completely surprised when Thorpe checked in at No. 7. We wondered what the criteria must have been such he wasn't higher.

    Of course, ESPN piled a huge amount of stock in an athlete's larger impact on history and culture. And indeed, eight of the top 10 were figures who transcended sport so much that they were known even among non-sports fans. (The other two, Thorpe and Babe Didrikson Zaharias, were people who were great in multiple sports rather than being singularly transformative in one.)

    But yeah, anyone putting together any sort of list will have Thorpe high in the rankings, or else that person shows they are not qualified to compile it in the first place. I'll hereby request a future episode of Biographics on Thorpe. He definitely warrants the deeper-dive nature of that channel.

  37. I have the feeling that said wife received some money for the body… Quite disgusting move if she did…

  38. I am Potawatomi. Jim is still a huge inspiration to our people. Also, my grandmother was put in a boarding school as a child and it feels so good to hear you talk about them. Most people have no idea how negative of an affect it had on all natives.

  39. Venus and Serena didn't reach critical fame until the 21st century. They're not usual suspects. They're 21st century athletes.

  40. The "h" is silent in Mauch Chunk. It's pronounced "Mock Chunk." Mauch Chunk is the Lenni Lenape name for "Mountain of the Sleeping Bear."

  41. No mention of the LaRue Oorang Indians? Smallest town to ever hold a NFL franchise and an all Native American team where Thorpe played and coached the team.

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