View Full Version : Tales of the Inadvertent Pacifist part 4

07-30-2006, 03:57 AM
Tales of the Inadvertent Pacifist part 4
The Inadvertent Pacifist and the Indian Runner

In 1945, after the invasion of Okinawa and the Japanese Surrender, my Father Ray returned to San Pedro and signed articles as an able seaman aboard yet another Liberty ship. The name of the ship he never mentioned . However, he did mention one of his shipmates on that run, Jim Thorpe. For those of you too young or unfamiliar with the name, I€ll give some background information on Jim Thorpe.

Born in Prague, Oklahoma on May 28, 1887, Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox tribe and a descendant of Chief Black Hawk. He grew up in the early part of the 1900€s and is, without a doubt, the greatest athlete of the 20th century. He was raised on the Sac and Fox reservation and his tribal name was Wa-Tho-Huk meaning €œBright Path€. Among his many athletic accomplishments, as a running back, defensive back, place kicker and punter for the Carlisle Indian School in 1911, he led his team to an 11-1 record. The next year, He led the team to an undefeated 12-0 record and the National Collegiate Championship including a 28-7 victory over Army. During that game, he ran for a 92-yard touchdown only to have the play called back by a teammate€s penalty. On the next play, he ran for a 97-yard touchdown. The Army team that year included a young cadet named Dwight D. Eisenhower who injured his knee unsuccessfully attempting to tackle Thorpe. For his performance in those seasons, Thorpe won All-American honors for both years.

In 1912, he competed on the US Olympic team at the Stockholm games winning gold medals in the Pentathlon and Decathlon, outscoring his opponents by a wide margin in both contests. This was even though Native Americans were not granted full citizenship until 1918. He also won two challenge prizes, one from King Gustav V of Sweden for the Decathlon and one from Czar Nicholas II for the Pentathlon. When King Gustav awarded Thorpe his medals, the King said, €œYou, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.€ Thorpe was said to have replied, €œThanks, King.€

In 1913, he was illegally stripped of his medals by the AAU and the IOC for playing a season of semi-pro baseball, even though baseball was not an Olympic sport at the time. This unjust event broke his heart and affected him until the end of his days. However, he went on to play professional baseball for six seasons with the New York Giants, Boston Braves and Cincinnati Reds with a batting average of .262 overall. He played minor-league baseball until 1922 while concurrently playing football for the Canton Bulldogs and the New York Giants from 1915 until 1928. The Canton team was one of the original 14 teams that was formed into what is now known as the National Football League. He was also the first league president while simultaneously playing and coaching for the Canton team until his retirement in 1928 at age 41. He also played semi-pro basketball in 1927-28 with a barnstorming All-Indian team, Jim Thorpe and his World-Famous Indians. In one baseball game, played in a ballpark on the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas border, he hit three home runs into three different states in one game. One home run over the left field wall into Oklahoma, one home run over the right field wall into Arkansas and a third inside the park homer in Texas.

By the time my father shipped out with him, he was 58 years old and a raging alcoholic. However, there was still some of the old magic left. One of the other shipmates, a young , strapping 24-year old challenged Thorpe to a race the length of the ship, a distance of 442 feet or about 150 yards. Thorpe agreed to the race for a bet of fifty dollars. Another shipmate agreed to be the starter at the stern while Ray was stationed at the bow to judge the finish, stopwatch in hand.

As he saw the starter drop his arm, Ray started the stopwatch and the race was on. Needless to say, Thorpe crossed the finish line in just under 14 seconds with the young opponent trailing 3 seconds behind. Thorpe collected his fifty bucks, smiled and went off to get a bottle while his younger opponent could only scratch his head in wonder at being beaten so badly by an old man.

Thorpe died in 1953, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 and was finally reinstated by the International Olympic Committee in 1982 as co-champion of the decathlon and pentathlon with Hugo Weislander in the Decathlon and Ferdinand Bie in the Pentathlon, even though both Bie and Weislander always said they considered Thorpe to be the only champion and winner of those events.

Richard B. Scott 2006 all rights reserved

07-30-2006, 04:39 AM
Great story, I have to wonder what Jim Thorpe would have been if he wasn't an alcoholic...I imagine he would have won by 15 seconds not 3.