All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe

All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe

by Bill Crawford
     
 

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This is a poignant and revealing biography of a pivotal figure in Olympic and American sports history.

In 1912, Jim Thorpe was the greatest sports celebrity in the world, a decathlon and pentathlon gold-medal winner at the Olympics as well as America’s highest-scoring football running back–a combination of Jim Brown, Jesse Owens, Emmitt Smith, and Deion

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Overview

This is a poignant and revealing biography of a pivotal figure in Olympic and American sports history.

In 1912, Jim Thorpe was the greatest sports celebrity in the world, a decathlon and pentathlon gold-medal winner at the Olympics as well as America’s highest-scoring football running back–a combination of Jim Brown, Jesse Owens, Emmitt Smith, and Deion Sanders. Yet the very next year Thorpe was betrayed by his longtime coach and mentor, stripped of his Olympic medals, and banned from intercollegiate track and football because he had violated his "amateur status." Though he would go on to play professional baseball and become president of what would later become the National Football League, Thorpe was never able to live down the scandal that cost him his medals.

Now, in the first new biography of Thorpe in nearly twenty years, Bill Crawford brings this Native American sports legend to life for a new generation. Drawing on newly uncovered information about Thorpe’s manager, Glenn "Pop" Warner, as well as the scandal that took away Thorpe’s Olympic medals, Crawford captures for the first time the full arc of Thorpe’s career. He tells the story of Thorpe’s rambunctious childhood on the Sac and Fox Indian reservation in Oklahoma and shows how he went from a boarding school runaway to a Texas bronco buster to a student at the famed Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He reveals how Thorpe beat the Carlisle high-jump record on a bet (in street clothes) and twice flew through a full field of tacklers on his way to the end zone in his impromptu tryout for the football team. And he recounts Thorpe’s astonishing triumphs of 1911—1912, when he led the Carlisle Indian football squad through two triumphant seasons–including victories over Harvard and West Point–and topped it all off with two gold medals at the Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

Crawford also brings to life Pop Warner, the pioneering Carlisle football coach and sports impresario who helped Thorpe achieve his greatest triumphs, then sided with the authorities when Thorpe lost his medals. Full of insights into the corrupt, rough-and-tumble world of athletics and the struggles of Native Americans at the turn of the twentieth century, and illustrated with 33 rare photographs, All American is an indelible portrait of the greatest American athlete of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* Crawford’s terse, punchy biography of sports legend Thorpe (1888-1953) illuminates the current debate over the exploitation of unpaid college athletes by money-making, headline-grabbing educational institutions. Thorpe’s own story is familiar: of mixed Caucasian and Native American background, Thorpe was raised on an Oklahoma reservation and was a somewhat obstinate kid before being sent to the Carlisle School, where educators sought to "detach Indians from their native ‘savagery.’ " Thorpe’s awe-inspiring athletic prowess was harnessed for the football team by the school’s bullying coach, "Pop" Warner. The young sport, a brutal endeavor still played without guards, was just beginning to catch on when, in 1911, Thorpe led Carlisle to a stunning upset over Harvard. The next year, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympics and was arguably America’s most lauded athlete. In 1913, though, true reports that Thorpe had played professional minor-league baseball (violating rules for Olympic amateurs) caused a scandal, marked by racist reporting and Thorpe’s betrayal by the well-paid Warner, after which Thorpe was stripped of his medals. Texas journalist Crawford enlivens what is normally treated as a gauzy story of struggle against adversity with a no-nonsense approach, letting the racist attitudes against Thorpe speak for themselves and creating a resonant portrait of a champion in a hostile age. Photos. Agent, Jim Hornfischer. (Nov.) (Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004)
Publishers Weekly
Crawford's terse, punchy biography of sports legend Thorpe (1888-1953) illuminates the current debate over the exploitation of unpaid college athletes by money-making, headline-grabbing educational institutions. Thorpe's own story is familiar: of mixed Caucasian and Native American background, Thorpe was raised on an Oklahoma reservation and was a somewhat obstinate kid before being sent to the Carlisle School, where educators sought to "detach Indians from their native `savagery.' " Thorpe's awe-inspiring athletic prowess was harnessed for the football team by the school's bullying coach, "Pop" Warner. The young sport, a brutal endeavor still played without guards, was just beginning to catch on when, in 1911, Thorpe led Carlisle to a stunning upset over Harvard. The next year, Thorpe won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympics and was arguably America's most lauded athlete. In 1913, though, true reports that Thorpe had played professional minor-league baseball (violating rules for Olympic amateurs) caused a scandal, marked by racist reporting and Thorpe's betrayal by the well-paid Warner, after which Thorpe was stripped of his medals. Texas journalist Crawford enlivens what is normally treated as a gauzy story of struggle against adversity with a no-nonsense approach, letting the racist attitudes against Thorpe speak for themselves and creating a resonant portrait of a champion in a hostile age. Photos. Agent, Jim Hornfischer. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bad enough to have been used for athletic talent. But to be betrayed by one's coach and manager? There's the crux of this modest contribution to sports history. Sports scouts first reckoned that Jim Thorpe (1888-1953) was something special when they saw him play for the US Indian School at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There, writes Texas journalist Crawford (Stevie Ray Vaughn: Caughter in the Crossfire, not reviewed), Thorpe came under the tutelage of the legendary Glenn Scobey Warner, "the first modern king-coach," who blended moments of stiff correctness with a love of drink, smoke, gambling, joking, painting, and poetry, and "who was not afraid of kicking, punching, or beating his players when he felt they deserved it." Now enshrined in football history, "Pop" Warner was also frequently in trouble with intercollegiate and international athletic boards everywhere for his fast-and-loose approach to the rules: Thorpe, for instance, was 21 when he was playing for the boarding school, excelling in basketball, baseball, track and field, and football, and he was not the oldest of the players. He received small stipends of various kinds, and he had also received fees for playing for minor-league teams before he earned fame and glory in the decathlon and pentathlon competitions at the 1912 Olympic Games. When a Massachusetts paper revealed his professional past, Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic honors. Writes Crawford, "The scandal threatened to expose the financial details of the Carlisle Athletic Association, Warner's business empire that operated on the edge of legality." Warner believed that the story was meant to force Thorpe out of the amateur ranks and into the majors, but he disavowedThorpe all the same: "Thorpe would have to take the fall, and Warner would have to push him." Fortunately for Warner, Thorpe did take the fall, gracefully and effectively ending his career. It would be more than half a century before the International Olympic Committee struck the word "amateur" from its charter and allowed players like Thorpe to compete. An athlete who merits recognition today, here given justifiable due. Agent: Jim Hornfischer/Hornfischer Literary Management

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471557326
Publisher:
Turner Publishing Company
Publication date:
10/18/2004
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,147,689
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.74(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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