Jim May Break In This Year

Damon Runyon

Salt Lake Tribune/May 3, 1916

Giants Again Carry Thorpe

Jim goes south with the Giants again this spring. Jim is making his fourth trip to the training camp of the big town club to try for a place on the regular team. Folks say the third time is the charm.

First, Jim went in the blossom period of 1913. Then he was the cynosure of all eyes, meaning to disrespect to Jim in calling him a cynosure.

Next he traveled to the Lone Star state in the spring of 1914, this time not so much of a cynosure. In fact, he was anything but sure. Back he went again in 1915, the keep of his trouserloons now quite innocent of nap, as a result of weary days of skidding along a big league bench, and the world did not pause to slip him so much as a cock-eyed slant as he passed along to his train.

Once more he turns his beak sou’-sou’ wes’, and where once the eager mobs trampled his hells Jim now has room to march a mile without danger of jostling a single soul. Where once his shell-like cars—72-centimeter shells—throbbed to the clamor of the admiring multitude, Him now has so much silence that he can hear himself think.

Gone is the adulation of that other day. Gone is the hue and cry of public adoration. He proceeds to the varnished caravan unhonored and unsung. The assistant secretary eyes him with singular malevolence, as if contemplating assigning him to an upper berth. ‘Tis the way of the world, Jim; ‘tis the way of the world!

You Know Him

You know Jim, of course.

Who was it won the—the—er—er—well, the watchumacallit over in Sweden that time? It was Jim. Who was it that was just like this with the king, and all those birds? That was Jim. Who was heralded as the world’s greatest athlete? Jim. Who could shed football tackles a doggone sight better than the roof of a Riverside Drive apartment house sheds water? Jim. And who was it, alas and lackaday, who could not hit a big league curve with a bed slat?

Ah, that was also Jim—our Jim—James C. Thorpe!

Full many a time, and oft, have we ruminated over the case of Jim; kindly ruminations, always, they have been, but never have we been able to ruminate him into a definite and permanent connection with that large league curve.

What is there about that cantankerous twist of the baseball, as it leaves the hand of some slab-sided slinger, that baffles a man who could nudge a football along a gridiron, sideways and perpendicular, from here to breakfast time against any opposition? We give it up! Occasionally we have been tempted to give Jim up, too; but James is such a grand character, and withal so entertaining, that we must stay with him through his third spring training season at least.

Remove Jim from big league baseball and you remove one of the most inspiring spectacles that nature has ever presented to the national game, which is the spectacle of James at his matutinal refreshment, or morning meal. John J. McGraw says that James never orders steak for breakfast, he orders steaks.

The Story of Thorpe

The history of James C. Thorpe is familiar to all followers of sport. After being acclaimed the world’s greatest athlete at the Olympic games in 1912, it was suddenly discovered that Jim had played a bit of professional baseball in 1909, and his amateur standing was kicked right from under him.

They took away the material evidence of his prowess, in the form of trophies, but they were never able to take from him the glory of his achievements. They were never able to dim the luster of the football fame of the Indian, now generally rated as one of the greatest football players of all time.

Jim’s baseball playing was done at Wilmington, Fayetteville, and Rocky Mount, down in North Carolina. He was not much of a player, even in that company, but when his athletic expose came there was a grand rush for him by big league baseball managers, who realized that his fame would make him a great drawing card.

Glen Warner, then football coach of the Carlisle Indians, is a friend of John J. McGraw, and it was Warner who got Thorpe to sign with the Giants. This was in January, 1913, and the formal signing of the Indian was made quite an event. It appeared that Beaumont, Texas, had some sort of baseball claim on Thorpe at the time he took on with McGraw, but this was easily straightened out.

Jim trained that spring at Marlin and took part in about nineteen exhibition games during the season, amassing a batting average of .143. He was taken on the White Sox-Giants tour of the world by John J. McGraw, and in 1914 he played in some thirty exhibition games, hitting .194. In 1915, with the Giants, he figured in seventeen games, hitting .231. He was then sent by McGraw to Jersey City.

He Has Improved

Jim had some sort of difficulty in Jersey City, and was transferred to Harrisburg. There he finally commenced to play baseball, and he wound up the season with a batting average of .303 for ninety-six games. He stole twenty-two bases. He returned to the Giants when the International league season closed.

His record in the International proves that Thorpe really possesses baseball ability. When he was first signed by McGraw, the Giant leader was probably not unmindful of Jim’s value as a drawing card, but after looking him over McGraw declared that the Indian held much promise.

This statement was laughed at by most baseball men who watched Thorpe in action. Last spring, however, McGraw was so confident of Thorpe that he started him as a regular, and Jim fell down on the job. This spring McGraw is obviously not figuring on Thorpe at all, and yet this may be Jim’s year. His experience in the International may have been just what he needed.

Thorpe is now 26 years old, unless his printed record lies. He was born in Tucson, Arizona, and went to Carlisle in 1909, the same year he branched out into professional baseball. Though a very marvelous football player, Jim has often declared that he never cared much for the gridiron game, but liked baseball. He said he followed football only because he wanted to become a coach.

Last fall he did some coaching in the middle west, and later played with a professional football team. Jim may have been unable to learn big league baseball in nearly four years, but he has never forgotten big league football, as he was the star of the outfit.


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