first gained recognition in track and field and Warner was reluctant to play

First gained recognition in track and field and

This preview shows page 9 - 10 out of 12 pages.

first gained recognition in track and field, and Warner was reluctant to play Thorpe on the football team for fear of injuring his top track star. At 6 feet 1 inch and weighing a muscular 190 pounds, Thorpe was too good an athlete to keep off the gridiron. In 1911 he received national attention when he led the football team – naturally called the “Indians” – to an upset victory over unbeaten Harvard. His punting ability – he kicked an 83-yard punt against Brown – and his skill as a running back and sure-handed tackler led to All-American honors. The American people became infatuated with what the press called “The Indian.” In the 1912 Olympics Thorpe became an international sensation when he won both the pentathlon and the decathlon at Stockholm. In the five-event pentathlon he won four first places (broad jump, 200-meter dash, javelin throw, and 1,500-meter race), and in the 10-event decathlon he scored 8,413 points out of a possible 10,000, some 700 points ahead of his nearest competitor. King Gustav of Sweden told him upon presenting his gold medals, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe reportedly responded, “Thanks, King.” 31 Upon returning to the United States, Thorpe found himself a national hero and was greeted in New York City with a ticker-tape parade. He further enhanced his reputation as a multisport phenomenon by leading Carlisle's football team to a consensus national championship with a 12–1 record against the top teams in the East, including a stunning upset against Army. Walter Camp again named him an All-American. The American people considered Thorpe a national treasure, but his ethnicity was always mentioned prominently in newspaper accounts. Thorpe's high standing with the public did not last for long. In January of 1913, just two months after he starred in the upset at West Point, a Massachusetts newspaper revealed that during the summers of 1909 and 1910 he had played for a Class-D minor-league baseball league in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he earned between $2 and $5 a game. The all-white male members of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the American Olympic Committee (AOC) moved with incredible speed and ordered Thorpe to return his Olympic medals and that his name and records be stricken from the Olympic record book. Public opinion on this harsh and arbitrary decision to uphold a pristine concept of amateurism was sharply divided. Some felt betrayed by Thorpe's violation of the strict amateur code, while others, including Warner, contended that he was being harshly punished because he was Native American. A white champion, they suggested, would have been treated differently. This controversy brought into sharp public focus the relationship between sports and race. In his letter of apology to the AAU, Thorpe subtly pointed to the double standard by which he had been summarily judged: “I was not very wise to the ways of the world and did not realize that this was wrong and it would make me a professional in track sports, although I learned from the other players that it would be better for me not to let any one know that I was playing.” Pointing out that
Image of page 9
Image of page 10

You've reached the end of your free preview.

Want to read all 12 pages?

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture