LOS ANGELES – Jim Thorpe, probably the greatest all-around athlete who ever lived, died today of a heart attack at the age of 64.
The most talked-about sports figure of his day in football, track and field and later in big league baseball succumbed in the modest trailer in which he lived with his third wife, Patricia, in suburban Lomita.
The colorful Carlisle Institute Indian, who set records in winning the grueling pentathlon and decathlon events in the 1912 Olympics at Stockholm, had survived two previous heart attacks one in 1943 and the other last year.
Listed by modern sports experts as an all-time all-American football player, Thorpe collapsed while eating dinner with his wife late this afternoon. Mrs. Thorpe’s screams attracted a neighbor, Colby Bradshaw who administered artificial respiration for nearly half an hour.
A county fire department rescue squad continued resuscitation efforts. They were successful briefly. Thorpe revived, recognized persons around him and tried to speak.
However, he suffered a relapse and died. He is survived by his widow, three daughters and four sons.
He was pronounced dead by Dr. Rachel E. Jenkins of an emergency hospital, who had administered adrenalin directly into the heart in an effort to save Thorpe.
Three years ago in an Associated Press poll, sports writers voted Thorpe as the greatest male athlete in the first half of this century. He was far ahead of Babe Ruth, the runner-up for the honor.
After making Walter Camp’s All-American team for two years as a sensational runner, kicker and passer at Carlisle (PA.) Indian Institute, in 1911 and 1912 he played professional football and baseball for 16 years. For six years he was in the big league.
MOVIE MADE OF LIFE
But in the autumn of his life he met economic reverses. In 1951 it was revealed that he was flat broke and a charity case in a Philadelphia hospital. He had undergone surgery there for removal of a lip cancer.
Various movements were started to aid him. Baseball raised a substantial sum. A group of sportsmen and business men organized the Fair Play for Thorpe committee.
His fabulous career was depicted in a movie, “Jim Thorpe, All American” part of which was filmed on the campus of Bacone Indian College at Muskogee.
Thorpe recently was associated in operation of a restaurant in Wilmington, Calif., not far from his trailer home.
He realized funds from the movie of his life and was a frequent speaker. The demand for his appearances indicated the old Carlisle Indian still retained his popularity among sports fans.
He was seriously ill last summer while in Henderson, Nev., but showed the old stamina to recover.
PARENTS WERE INDIANS
Big Jim, who stood 6 feet 1 inch and weighed 185 pounds in his prime, was born in a one-room log cabin near Shawnee, Okla., on May 28, 1888, one of twin boys. His twin brother died at the age of 8.
Jim’s mother gave him the Indian tribal name of Wa-tho-huck meaning Bright Path. Thorpe’s mother was an Indian, his father part Indian. His paternal grandfather was an Irishman who took as his bride a granddaughter of the famous Sac and Fox warrior, Chief Black Hawk.
Nobody knows how many sports Big Jim could have excelled in. He wasn’t too strong on the rigors of training relying on his great natural co-ordination and speed to attain athletic heights.
He first gained prominence in sports at Carlisle Institute under Coach Glenn (Pop) Warner. He started playing football in 1907. The next year he kicked three field goals to beat Penn State 12-5 and squirmed 60 yards to tie Pennsylvania 6-6. He played left half.
He dropped out of school for two years. But Warner coaxed him back and he achieved his greatest gridiron stardom in 1911-12.
Modern sports experts have picked him as the football player of the century, ranking him ahead of “Galloping Ghost,” Red Grange. He and Grange were almost unanimous choices for the halfback posts on an all-time all-America Football team.
In the 1912 Olympics with almost no specialized training, he set point totals in the decathlon and pentathlon which stood for 20 years. He won every pentathlon event except the javelin throw. He was outstanding in running, hurdling, high jumping, pole vaulting and in the weight events.
King Gustav V of Sweden told him: “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.”
LOST MEDALS, RECORDS
He returned home a hero. A year later he was saddened when it was revealed that in 1910 he had played baseball for pay with the Rocky Mount club in the eastern Carolina league. His salary was $60 a month. This branded him a professional.
He was stripped of his medals and his marks were removed from the record books. Years later a congressional sub-committee decided to see what could be done to have his trophies returned to him but nothing came of it.
After finishing school, several major league clubs bid for his services. The New York Giants reportedly paid him $5,000 to sign. He wasn’t happy with the New York club and was moved to Boston, where he batted .327 in 60 games. He remained in the National league for six years, playing 77 games for Cincinnati in 1917.
Later he did well in the minors, winding up his baseball career in 1928 with Akron. He was 40 then. Between baseball seasons he played professional football.
In 1913 Jim married Iva Miller, who got herself enrolled at Carlisle on the pretense she was part Indian. She presented him with three daughters, Gail, Charlotte and Grace and one son, who died in infancy.
They were divorced 10 years later and in 1926 Jim married Frieda Kirkpatrick. They had four sons, Phil, William, Richard and Jack. They were divorced in 1943 and 2 years later the great Indian athlete married Patricia Askew, whom he had met 30 years earlier while playing professional football.
Quite a Guy Was Indian Jim Thorpe
NEW YORK – There are a thousand good stories – some of them true – about old Jim Thorpe, the greatest all-around athlete of the past 50 years who died in California today.
And, in the nearly 40 years since the muscular Sac-Fox Indian first flashed to athletic fame at Carlisle Indian school, it has become increasingly hard to tell where the truth ends and where excusable exaggeration begins.
James Francis Thorpe is not merely a legendary figure in American sports. He’s the kind of man about whom legends grow. And Thorpe himself seldom hesitates to add to the fable of old Jim. Perhaps, in later years, when he found it hard to earn a living, his memory played him false on dates and details. Or maybe Jim liked to make a good story better, too.
Taking fact and fable for what they’re worth, the sports writers and broadcasters of the United States, participating in the Associated Press poll, voted Thorpe the outstanding male athlete of the first half of the 20th century. They put him far ahead of Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Ty Cobb, Bobby Jones and Joe Louis – all great athletes about whom some colorful yarns also have been told.
Of the 252 named, Thorpe first, 45 named him second and 29 third. Ruth drew 36 first place votes, 118 second and 45 thirds. Dempsey was ranked third with 19, 67 and 55.
In other ballots, the experts also chose Thorpe – now 61 years old – as the outstanding football player of the 1900-1949 period and ranked him second only to Jesse Owens in track.
According to legend, Thorpe was virtually indestructible; the kind of guy who’d ask: “Who could get hurt playing football?”
Yet Jim was hurt more than once playing football. In his first big season, 1911, he was on crutches most of a week before he led a 16-0 rout of Pennsylvania and his legs were heavily bandaged the day he kicked four field goals, the last 43 yards, to upset mighty Harvard.
There’s a legend that Thorpe was a 1-man track team who once beat Lafayette single-handed in a dual meet. Harold Anson Bruce, then Lafayette coach has a different version in which Carlisle brought four men to help Thorpe. All Jim did that day was finish second in the 100-yarddash and win the pole vault, high jump, broad jump, shot put and low hurdles.
And there’s a legend that Thorpe couldn’t hit a curve ball, a weakness which finally forced him out of the major leagues. Yet Jim was good enough to remain in the majors six seasons and to draw a $7,500 salary when $7,500 really meant something.
His “lifetime” major league batting average was .252, but in 1919, his last season, he hit .327 for 62 games. Eddie Roush won the National League championship that year with .321 for 133 games. In the next two seasons Jim batted .360 for Akron in the International league and .358 for Toledo in the American Association.
Pointing to those figures Thorpe asks, “Does that show I was a sucker for a curve?”
The established facts are almost as incredible as the fiction.
Playing football for a little school that usually was outmanned and outweighed against the strongest of the big eastern colleges, Thorpe scored 25 touchdowns and a 196 point total in 1912. That same year he had won both the pentathlon and decathlon at the Stockholm Olympic games, winning four events in each competition.
Later when his medals and trophies were taken from him because he had violated the strict Olympic code of amateurism by playing professional baseball for $60 a month, his defeated rivals refused to accept them. They insisted: “Thorpe won them fairly. He is the greatest athlete in the world.”
Rediscovered records of Thorpe’s Olympic feats, superb as they were at that time, show that he wouldn’t be considered any great shakes by modern standards. In only one event, the high jump, did he surpass Glenn Morris’ 1936 world record decathlon, by the same scoring system. Jim would have finished abut even with 17-year-old Bob Mathias when he won in 1948. But in his specialties the sprints, hurdles and broad jump, Thorpe wasn’t far from the 1912 world records and his point total was by far the highest ever compiled at that time.
Thorpe also starred in baseball, basketball and lacrosse at Carlisle and had a fling at wrestling. When he later tried golf, he learned to shoot in the 70s. In his prime, Jim was a perfectly coordinated 185-pounder standing 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches in his moccasins.
Death of Jim Thorpe Loss to World, Governor Says
OKLAHOMA CITY (United Press) – Gov. Johnston Murray, who keeps a portrait of Jim Thorpe hanging in the Capitol building Blue room next to his office, said tonight it was a “sad shock” to learn of the great Oklahoma athlete’s death.
Murray said Thorpe, who died at his Lomita, Calif., home tonight, “will be mourned throughout the world, wherever the spirit of friendly competition is appreciate.”
Murray and Thorpe were friends, and the athlete recently stopped in to visit the governor while on a trip east. Murray also was once a football and baseball player, and he has Indian blood.
`A FAMOUS SON’
“As well as being one of Oklahoma’s most famous sons,” Murray said, “Jim Thorpe also was a favorite person with all who knew him. Those of us with native American blood in our veins take special pride in his great triumphs.
“He was the greatest athlete of them all. He was an equally fine human being.”
Thorpe’s portrait hangs in the Oklahoma Capitol in a room which also displays a bust of Will Rogers.
But many recall his last public appearance in Oklahoma, which brought little pleasure to the film company which made a movie of his life.
Thorpe was in Muskogee – home of Bacone College, the Indian school he attended before going to Carlisle – for the premier of the picture, “Jim Thorpe, All-American,” in August 1951.
He made his appearance a short one. He did not like the film made by Warner Brothers and called the producers “a bunch of stinkers.”
During the visit, he met a “Jim Thorpe Day” crowd at Anadarko, and promptly advised them to boycott the movie.