Jim Thorpe

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I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy and did not know all about such things. In fact, I did not know that I was doing wrong, because I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did not use their own names ...

His letter did not help. [66] The AAU decided to withdraw Thorpe's amateur status retroactively. [67] Later that year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously decided to strip Thorpe of his Olympic titles, medals and awards, and declare him a professional. [68] [69] [70]

Although Thorpe had played for money, the AAU and IOC did not follow their own rules for disqualification. The rulebook for the 1912 Olympics stated that protests had to be made "within 30 days from the closing ceremonies of the games." [30] The first newspaper reports did not appear until January 1913, about six months after the Stockholm Games had concluded. [30] There is also some evidence that Thorpe was known to have played professional baseball before the Olympics, but the AAU had ignored the issue until being confronted with it in 1913. [71] [72] The only positive aspect of this affair for Thorpe was that, as soon as the news was reported that he had been declared a professional, he received offers from professional sports clubs. [73]

Professional career

Baseball free agent

Because the minor league team that last held Jim Thorpe's contract had disbanded in 1910, the athlete had the unusual status as a sought-after free agent at the major league level during the era of the reserve clause. He could choose the baseball team for which to play. [74] In January 1913, he turned down a starting position with the St. Louis Browns, then at the bottom of the American League. He chose to join the 1912 National League champion New York Giants. With Thorpe playing in 19 of their 151 games, they repeated as the 1913 National League champions. Immediately following the Giants' October loss in the 1913 World Series, Thorpe and the Giants joined the Chicago White Sox for a world tour. [75] Barnstorming across the United States and around the world, Thorpe was the celebrity of the tour. [76] Thorpe's presence increased the publicity, attendance and gate receipts for the tour. [77] He met with Pope Pius X and Abbas II Hilmi Bey (the last Khedive of Egypt), and played before 20,000 people in London including King George V. [77] [78] Thorpe was the last man to compete in both the Olympics (in a non-baseball sport) and Major League Baseball before Eddy Alvarez did the same in 2020. [79]

Baseball, football, and other sports

Thorpe in 1913 Jim Thorpe 1913b-cr.jpg
Thorpe in 1913

Thorpe signed with the New York Giants baseball club in 1913 and played sporadically with them as an outfielder for three seasons. After playing in the minor leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1916, [80] he returned to the Giants in 1917. He was sold to the Cincinnati Reds early in the season. In the "double no-hitter" between Fred Toney of the Reds and Hippo Vaughn of the Chicago Cubs, Thorpe drove in the winning run in the 10th inning. [81] Late in the season, he was sold back to the Giants. Again, he played sporadically for them in 1918 before being traded to the Boston Braves on May 21, 1919, for Pat Ragan. In his career, he amassed 91  runs scored, 82  runs batted in and a .252  batting average over 289 games. [82] He continued to play minor league baseball until 1922, [83] and once played for the minor league Toledo Mud Hens. [84]

But Thorpe had not abandoned football either. He first played professional football in 1913 as a member of the Indiana-based Pine Village Pros, a team that had a several-season winning streak against local teams during the 1910s. [85] He signed with the Canton Bulldogs in 1915. They paid him $250 ($6,697 today) a game, a tremendous wage at the time. [86] Before signing him Canton was averaging 1,200 fans a game, but 8,000 showed up for Thorpe's debut against the Massillon Tigers. [86] The team won titles in 1916, 1917, and 1919. Thorpe reportedly ended the 1919 championship game by kicking a wind-assisted 95-yard punt from his team's own 5-yard line, effectively putting the game out of reach. [86]

In 1920, the Bulldogs were one of 14 teams to form the American Professional Football Association, which became the National Football League (NFL) two years later. Thorpe was nominally their first president, but spent most of the year playing for Canton; a year later, he was replaced as president by Joseph Carr. [87] He continued to play for Canton, coaching the team as well. Between 1921 and 1923, he helped organize and played for the Oorang Indians (LaRue, Ohio), an all-Native American team. [88] Although the team's record was 3–6 in 1922, [89] and 1–10 in 1923, [90] Thorpe played well and was selected for the Green Bay Press-Gazette 's first All-NFL team in 1923. This was later formally recognized in 1931 by the NFL as the league's official All-NFL team). [91]

Thorpe never played for an NFL championship team. He retired from professional football at age 41, [20] having played 52 games for six teams from 1920 to 1928. [92]

Most of Thorpe's biographers were unaware of his basketball career until a ticket that documented his time in professional basketball was discovered in an old book in 2005. [93] By 1926, he was the main feature of the "World Famous Indians" of LaRue, a traveling basketball team. [94] "Jim Thorpe's world famous Indians" barnstormed for at least two years (1927–28) in multiple states. [93] Although stories about Thorpe's team were published in some local newspapers at the time, his basketball career is not well-documented. [95] For a brief time in 1913, he was considering going into professional hockey for the Tecumseh Hockey Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. [96]

Marriage and family

Thorpe married three times and had a total of eight children. In 1913, Thorpe married Iva M. Miller, [13] whom he had met at Carlisle. In 1917, Iva and Thorpe bought a house now known as the Jim Thorpe House in Yale, Oklahoma, and lived there until 1923. [97] They had four children: James F., Gale, Charlotte, and Frances Thorpe. [13] Miller filed for divorce from Thorpe in 1925, claiming desertion. [98]

In 1926, Thorpe married Freeda Verona Kirkpatrick (September 19, 1905 – March 2, 2007). She was working for the manager of the baseball team for which he was playing at the time. [99] They had four sons: Phillip, William, Richard, and John Thorpe. [13] Kirkpatrick divorced Thorpe in 1941, after they had been married for 15 years. [99]

Lastly, Thorpe married Patricia Gladys Askew on June 2, 1945. [13] She was with him when he died. [100]

Later life, film career, and death

Thorpe with basketball, 1927 Jim Thorpe WFI PC front detail.jpg
Thorpe with basketball, 1927
The tomb of Jim Thorpe Tomb of Jim Thorpe b.jpg
The tomb of Jim Thorpe

After his athletic career, Thorpe struggled to provide for his family. He found it difficult to work a non-sports-related job and never held a job for an extended period of time. During the Great Depression in particular, he had various jobs, among others as an extra for several movies, usually playing an American Indian chief in Westerns. [101] [102] In the 1932 comedy Always Kickin', Thorpe was prominently cast in a speaking part as himself, a kicking coach teaching young football players to drop-kick. In 1931, during the Great Depression, he sold the film rights to his life story to MGM for $1,500 ($27,000 today). [103] [104] Thorpe portrayed an umpire in the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American . [105] He played a member of the Navajo Nation in the 1950 film Wagon Master . [106]

Thorpe was memorialized in the Warner Bros. film Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951), starring Burt Lancaster. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz. [107] Although there were rumors that Thorpe received no money, he was paid $15,000 by Warner Bros. plus a $2,500 donation toward an annuity for him by the studio head of publicity. [108] The movie included archival footage of the 1912 and 1932 Olympics. [109] Thorpe was seen in one scene as a coaching assistant. [109] It was also distributed in the United Kingdom, where it was called Man of Bronze. [110]

Apart from his career in films, he worked as a construction worker, a doorman/bouncer, a security guard, and a ditchdigger. He briefly joined the United States Merchant Marine in 1945, during World War II. [101] [102] Thorpe was a chronic alcoholic during his later life. [111] He ran out of money sometime in the early 1950s. When hospitalized for lip cancer in 1950, Thorpe was admitted as a charity case. [112] At a press conference announcing the procedure, his wife, Patricia, wept and pleaded for help, saying, "We're broke ... Jim has nothing but his name and his memories. He has spent money on his own people and has given it away. He has often been exploited." [112]

In early 1953, Thorpe went into heart failure for the third time while dining with Patricia in their home in Lomita, California. He was briefly revived by artificial respiration and spoke to those around him, but lost consciousness shortly afterward. He died on March 28 at the age of 65. [13]

Victim of racism

Thorpe, whose parents were both half Caucasian, was raised as a Native American. He accomplished his athletic feats despite the severe racial inequality of the United States. It has often been suggested that his Olympic medals were stripped by the athletic officials because of his ethnicity. [113] While it is difficult to prove this, the public comment at the time largely reflected this view. [64] At the time Thorpe won his gold medals, not all Native Americans were recognized as U.S. citizens (the U.S. government had frequently demanded that they make concessions to adopt European-American ways to receive such recognition). Citizenship was not granted to all American Indians until 1924. [114]

When Thorpe attended Carlisle, the students' ethnicity was used for marketing purposes. [115] The football team was called the Indians. To create headlines, the school and journalists often portrayed sporting competitions as conflicts of Indians against whites. [115] The first notice of Thorpe in The New York Times was headlined "Indian Thorpe in Olympiad; Redskin from Carlisle Will Strive for Place on American Team." [27] Throughout his life, Thorpe's accomplishments were described in a similar racial context by other newspapers and sportswriters, which reflected the era. [116]

Legacy

Olympic awards reinstated

Thorpe is featured on the reverse of the 2018 Sacagawea dollar. 2018 Native American Dollar Reverse.jpg
Thorpe is featured on the reverse of the 2018 Sacagawea dollar.

Over the years, supporters of Thorpe attempted to have his Olympic titles reinstated. [117] US Olympic officials, including former teammate and later president of the IOC Avery Brundage, rebuffed several attempts. Brundage once said, "Ignorance is no excuse." [25] Most persistent were the author Robert Wheeler and his wife, Florence Ridlon. They succeeded in having the AAU and United States Olympic Committee overturn its decision and restore Thorpe's amateur status before 1913. [118]

In 1982, Wheeler and Ridlon established the Jim Thorpe Foundation and gained support from the U.S. Congress. Armed with this support and evidence from 1912 proving that Thorpe's disqualification had occurred after the 30-day time period allowed by Olympics rules, they succeeded in making the case to the IOC. In October 1982, the IOC Executive Committee approved Thorpe's reinstatement. [63] In an unusual ruling, they declared that Thorpe was co-champion with Ferdinand Bie and Wieslander, although both of these athletes had always said they considered Thorpe to be the only champion. In a ceremony on January 18, 1983, the IOC presented two of Thorpe's children, Gale and Bill, with commemorative medals. [63] Thorpe's original medals had been held in museums, but they were stolen and have never been recovered. [119] The IOC listed Thorpe as a co-gold medalist. [7]

In July 2020, a petition from Bright Path Strong [120] [121] began circulating that called upon the IOC to reinstate Thorpe as the sole winner in his events in the 1912 Olympics. It was backed by Pictureworks Entertainment, which is making a film about Thorpe. The petition was supported by Olympian Billy Mills, who won a gold medal in the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Games. [122] [123] The IOC voted to reinstate Thorpe as the sole winner of both events on July 14, 2022. [9]

Honors

Thorpe as backfield coach for Indiana, 1915 Jim Thorpe (Indiana).jpg
Thorpe as backfield coach for Indiana, 1915
1933 Goudey Sport Kings card JimThorpeGoudeycard.jpg
1933 Goudey Sport Kings card

Thorpe's monument, featuring the quote from Gustav V ("You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."), still stands near the town named for him, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. [22] The grave rests on mounds of soil from Thorpe's native Oklahoma and from the stadium in which he won his Olympic medals. [124]

Thorpe's achievements received great acclaim from sports journalists, both during his lifetime and since his death. In 1950, an Associated Press poll of almost 400 sportswriters and broadcasters voted Thorpe the "greatest athlete" of the first half of the 20th century. [125] That same year, the Associated Press ranked Thorpe as the "greatest American football player" of the first half of the century. [126] Pro Football Hall of Fame voters selected him for the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1967. [127] In 1999, the Associated Press placed him third on its list of the top athletes of the century, following Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. [128] ESPN ranked Thorpe seventh on their list of best North American athletes of the century. [129]

Thorpe was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, one of seventeen players in the charter class. [130] Thorpe is memorialized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame rotunda with a larger-than-life statue. He was also inducted into halls of fame for college football, American Olympic teams, and the national track and field competition. [23]

In 2018, Thorpe became one of the inductees in the first induction ceremony held by the National Native American Hall of Fame. [131] The fitness center and a hall at Haskell Indian Nations University are named in honor of Thorpe. [132]

President Richard Nixon, as authorized by U.S. Senate Joint Resolution 73, proclaimed Monday, April 16, 1973, as "Jim Thorpe Day" to promote nationwide recognition of Thorpe's life. [133] In 1986, the Jim Thorpe Association established an award with Thorpe's name. The Jim Thorpe Award is given annually to the best defensive back in college football. The annual Thorpe Cup athletics meeting is named in his honor. [134] The United States Postal Service issued a 32¢ stamp on February 3, 1998, as part of the Celebrate the Century stamp sheet series. [135]

In a poll of sports fans published in 2000 by ABC Sports, Thorpe was voted the Greatest Athlete of the Twentieth Century; the pool of 15 other top athletes included Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens, Wayne Gretzky, Jack Nicklaus, and Michael Jordan. [136] [137]

In 2018, Thorpe was honored on the Native American dollar coin; [138] proposed designs were released in 2015. [139]

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

After Thorpe's funeral was held at St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma, [140] his body lay in state at Fairview Cemetery. Residents had paid to have it returned to Shawnee by train from California. [141] The people began a fund-raising effort to erect a memorial for Thorpe at the town's athletic park. Local officials had asked state legislators for funding, but a bill that included $25,000 for their proposal was vetoed by Governor Johnston Murray. [142]

Meanwhile, Thorpe's third wife, unbeknownst to the rest of his family, took Thorpe's body and had it shipped to Pennsylvania when she heard that the small Pennsylvania towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were seeking to attract business. [143] [144] She made a deal with officials which, according to Thorpe's son Jack, was made by the widowed Patricia for monetary considerations. [145] The towns "bought" Thorpe's remains, erected a monument to him at the grave, merged, and renamed the newly united town in his honor as Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Thorpe had never been there. [146] The monument site contains his tomb, [147] two statues of him in athletic poses, [148] and historical markers recounting his life story. [149]

In June 2010, Jack Thorpe filed a federal lawsuit against the borough of Jim Thorpe, seeking to have his father's remains returned to his homeland and re-interred near other family members in Oklahoma. Citing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Jack was arguing to bring his father's remains to the reservation in Oklahoma, to be buried near those of his father, sisters and brother, a mile from the place he was born. He claimed that the agreement between his stepmother and Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, borough officials was made against the wishes of other family members, who want him buried in Native American land. [150] [151] Jack Thorpe died at 73 on February 22, 2011. [152]

In April 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo ruled that Jim Thorpe borough amounts to a museum under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ("NAGPRA"), and therefore is bound by that law. A lawyer for Bill and Richard Thorpe said the men would pursue the legal process to have their father's remains returned to Sac and Fox land in central Oklahoma. [153] On October 23, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed Judge Caputo's ruling. The appeals court held that Jim Thorpe borough is not a "museum", as that term is used in NAGPRA, and that the plaintiffs therefore could not invoke that federal statute to seek reinterment of Thorpe's remains. [147] In NAGPRA language, "'museum' means any institution or State or local government agency (including any institution of higher learning) that receives Federal funds and has possession of, or control over, Native American cultural items." [154] The Court of Appeals directed the trial court to enter a judgment in favor of the borough. [147] The appeals court said Pennsylvania law allows the plaintiffs to ask a state court to order reburial of Thorpe's remains, but noted, "once a body is interred there is great reluctance in permitting same to be moved, absent clear and compelling reasons for such a move." [155] On October 5, 2015, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the matter, effectively bringing the legal process to an end. [156]

Jim Thorpe Marathon

The Jim Thorpe Area Running Festival is a series of races started in 2019 in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. It includes a marathon, a 26.2 mile footrace that features a steady elevation drop from start to finish. [157]

See also

Citations

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  2. 1 2 Sources vary. See, for example, Flatter, Ron. "Thorpe preceded Deion, Bo", ESPN. Retrieved December 9, 2016, and
    Golus, Carrie (2012). Jim Thorpe (Revised Edition), Twenty-First Century Books. p. 4. ISBN   978-1-4677-0397-0.
  3. Cook. p. 115.
  4. "Jim Thorpe Biography". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  5. 1 2 Golus, Carrie (2012). Jim Thorpe (Revised ed.). Twenty-First Century Books. p. 4. ISBN   978-1-4677-0397-0.
  6. "Stockholm 1912 Decathlon Men". International Olympic Committee. December 9, 2020. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
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  9. 1 2 Schaap, Jeremy (July 15, 2022). "IOC reinstates Jim Thorpe as sole winner of 1912 Olympic decathlon and pentathlon". ESPN.com . Retrieved July 15, 2022.
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  113. Watterson. p. 151.
    * Elfers. p. 18.
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General and cited sources

  • Bird, Elizabeth S. Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996. ISBN   978-0-8133-2667-2.
  • Bloom, John. There is a Madness in the Air: The 1926 Haskell Homecoming and Popular Representations of Sports in Federal and Indian Boarding Schools. ed. in Bird. Boulder: Westview Press. 1996. ISBN   978-0-8133-2667-2.
  • Buford, Kate. Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010. ISBN   978-0-8032-4089-6
  • Cava, Pete (Summer 1992). "Baseball in the Olympics" Archived August 9, 2017, at the Wayback Machine . Citius, Altius, Fortius. 1 (1): 7–15. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  • Cook, William A. Jim Thorpe: A Biography. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2011. ISBN   978-0-7864-6355-8.
  • Dodge, Robert. Which Chosen People? Manifest Destiny Meets the Sioux: As Seen by Frank Fiske, Frontier Photographer. New York: Algora Publishing, 2013. ISBN   978-1-62894-029-9.
  • Dyreson, Mark. Making the American Team: Sport, Culture, and the Olympic Experience. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998. ISBN   978-0-252-06654-2.
  • Elfers, James E. The Tour to End All Tours. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. ISBN   978-0-8032-6748-0.
  • Findling, John E. and Pelle, Kimberly D., eds. Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004. ISBN   978-0-313-32278-5.
  • Gerasimo, Luisa and Whiteley, Sandra. The Teacher's Calendar of Famous Birthdays. McGraw-Hill, 2003. ISBN   978-0-07-141230-8.
  • Hilger, Michael. Native Americans in the Movies: Portrayals from Silent Films to the Present. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. ISBN   978-1-4422-4002-5.
  • Hoxie, Frederick E. Encyclopedia of North American Indians. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books, 1996. ISBN   978-0-395-66921-1.
  • Jeansonne, Glen. A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. ISBN   978-0-7425-3377-6.
  • Landrum, Dr. Gene. Empowerment: The Competitive Edge in Sports, Business & Life. Brendan Kelly Publishing Incorporated, 2006. ISBN   978-1-895997-24-8.
  • Lincoln, Kenneth and Slagle, Al Logan. The Good Red Road: Passages into Native America. University of Nebraska Press, 1997. ISBN   978-0-8032-7974-2.
  • Magill, Frank Northern. Great Lives from History. New York: Salem Press, 1987. ISBN   978-0-89356-529-9.
  • Neft, David S., Cohen, Richard M., and Korch, Rick. The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. ISBN   978-0-312-11435-0.
  • O'Hanlon-Lincoln, Ceane. Chronicles: A Vivid Collection of Fayette County, Pennsylvania Histories. Mechling Bookbindery, 2006. ISBN   978-0-9760563-4-8.
  • Quirk, Charles E., ed. Sports and the Law: Major Legal Cases. London: Routledge, 2014. ISBN   978-1-135-68222-4.
  • Rogge, M. Jacque, Johnson, Michael, and Rendell, Matt. The Olympics: Athens to Athens 1896–2004. Sterling Publishing, 2004. ISBN   978-0-297-84382-5.
  • Schaffer, Kay and Smith, Sidonie. The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics and the Games. Rutger University Press, 2000. ISBN   978-0-8135-2820-5.
  • Watterson, John Sayle. College Football: history, spectacle, controversy. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000. ISBN   978-0-8018-7114-6.
  • Wheeler, Robert W. Jim Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete. University of Oklahoma Press, 1979. ISBN   978-0-8061-1745-4.
  • Williams, Randy. Sports Cinema 100 Movies: The Best of Hollywood's Athletic Heroes, Losers, Myths, and Misfits. Pompton Plains: Limelight Editions, 2006. ISBN   978-0-87910-331-6.
  • Zarnowski, Frank. All-Around Men: Heroes of a Forgotten Sport. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005. ISBN   978-0-8108-5423-9
  • Zarnowski, Frank. The Pentathlon of the Ancient World. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2013. ISBN   978-0-7864-6783-9.

Further reading

  • Benjey, Tom. Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Tuxedo Press, 2008. ISBN   978-0-9774486-7-8.
  • "In the Matter of Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe" in Bill Mallon and Ture Widlund, The 1912 Olympic Games: Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002. ISBN   978-0-7864-1047-7.
  • Maraniss, David (2022). Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN   978-1476748412. OCLC   1281585268.
  • Newcombe, Jack. The Best of the Athletic Boys: The White Man's Impact on Jim Thorpe. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1975. ISBN   978-0-385-06186-5.
  • Updyke, Rosemary Kissinger. Jim Thorpe, the Legend Remembered. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican, 1997. ISBN   978-1-56554-539-7.
  • Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2000. ISBN   978-1-58567-046-8.
Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe Canton Bulldogs 1915-20.jpg
Thorpe with the Canton Bulldogs, c.1915 – c.1920
No. 2, 21, 3 [1]
Position: Running back
Personal information
Born:May 22 or 28, 1887 [2]
Near Prague, Indian Territory
(in modern Oklahoma, United States)
Died:March 28, 1953(1953-03-28) (aged 65)
Lomita, California, United States
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:202 lb (92 kg)
Career information
College: Carlisle (1907–1908, 1911–1912)
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards

Baseball career
Jim Thorpe Giants.jpeg
Thorpe as a member of the New York Giants
Outfielder
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 14, 1913, for the  New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 25, 1919, for the  Boston Braves

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