Magazine article Newsweek

The Original Natural

Magazine article Newsweek

The Original Natural

Article excerpt

The Original Natural FOOTBALL, BASEBALL, TRACK AND FIELD: Jim Thorpe, an American Indian born in a one-room house in 1888, excelled at more sports than any other competitor of the century. In 1919, Thorpe launched what later became the NFL. He died in 1953. Grace Thorpe, 78, is his daughter.

Dad got sent to Carlisle Indian School in 1904--his dad signed him on for at least five years with no parental visits permitted. He stayed right through college, playing football. He was a great basketball player at Carlisle, too. There weren't any pro teams then to play for. Daddy was called "Big Jim," but he was just 5-11 and 185 pounds during the [1912] Olympics. It was his intensity, his fierceness that made him look so big.

He told me hunting and fishing were his favorite sports. I said, "Oh, Daddy, I mean the competitive ones." He said, "Track and field, because it was something I could do by myself, one-on-one, me against everybody else." He told me the Olympics were his biggest thrill. He was amazed by the fantastic machinery of the steamship during his trip to Europe. He climbed and crawled through every space on that ship.

Dad was always traveling. He once visited me at the Haskell Institute in Kansas when I was 6 years old. He'd promised me ice cream, but first he did an exhibition. He drop-kicked a football from the 50-yard line through the goal posts in one direction, then drop-kicked another 50-yarder in the opposite direction. Everybody went wild. Dad put me on his shoulders in the crowd. I kicked and kicked his chest and screamed for my ice-cream cone until he got me one.

LARGER THAN LIFE Boxing's Great Black Hope PAPA JACK: Boxer Jack Johnson, a role model for Muhammad Ali, was unbeatable from 1905 to 1915. Purdue history professor Randy Roberts is his biographer.

Jack Johnson was going through Georgia, driving, as he always did, a little too fast. …

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