Jim Thorpe never had it easy. As a member of the Native American tribe the Sac and Fox Nation, he was born in Indian Territory outside of Prague Oklahoma in 1887. The children of these tribes were separated from their parents and taught to be more Anglo-American, they were told to forget their heritage. It goes without saying that life on the Indian Territory was tough.
But the tough upbringing didn’t stop Jim Thorpe from becoming one of the greatest American athletes of all time. He played six seasons of major league baseball for the New York Giants (1913-1919) and bounced around the NFL to six different teams. But it’s not his professional career we’re going to talk about today.
Sure, he had to persevere and overcome many obstacles to play two sports professionally. But his attitude, his grit, his perseverance in the face of animosity can be summed up in one story.
The picture above is Mr. Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm Sweden. What jumps out in the photo is the fact that Jim’s wearing two different colored socks. That’s not impressive, it’s actually kind of embarrassing but he isn’t wearing two socks because he had issues packing for Sweden.
The morning Jim Thorpe woke up to compete for the United States in track and field his shoes were stolen (some say he lost them, regardless the man had no shoes for a track and field competition). This was before Olympic athletes had Nike deals, the IOC and the AAU ensured that the atmosphere was more like a modern-day High School track meet than the Olympics we know today. He couldn’t just go to someone to get new shoes, and he didn’t want to be late.
Luckily, he found one shoe in the dumpster and got another from a competitor. Look closer those are two different types of shoes, and one of them was too big for Jim’s foot. In order to run without his newly acquired shoes from falling off, he had to double up his socks.
That didn’t stop Jim Thorpe from going on to win the Pentathalon and the Decathalon of the 1912 Olympics. No excuses. He persevered. Jim Thorpe kept going forward, and he won.