In March 2005 Anthony Barone, Jr. found a ticket in a book he had purchased for $6.00 at an auction. What is remarkable about this unusual event is that a ticket to a March 1, 1927 basketball game involving Jim Thorpe and his World Famous Indians dropped out of the book. Big Jim’s involvement in March Madness is not much known about today although it was covered in newspapers of the day.
When Jim first started playing basketball is not known. The first known documentation of his playing on the Freshman Class and Carlisle Indian School varsity teams in January 1909. So, Jim played hoops competitively long before the ticket date. If he played competitively after the 1909 season is not known either. However, he definitely played in 1927.
That he had formed the World Famous Indians or Oorang Indians, as they were sometimes referred to, was widely reported in November 1926. Also reported were the names of his teammates:
- Raymond West, “Light Foot,” Cheyenne, forward
- Dennis Hildebrand, “Eagle Feather,” Cherokee, guard probably
- Leo Wapp, “Running Hawk,” Sac and Fox, guard
- Jess Parton, “Swift Deer,” Delaware, forward
- Dale Peters, college player from Indiana, center
- Fred Cooke, college player from Indiana, guard
Although the team was advertised as being an Indian team, the closest two of the team’s stars got to being Indians was to have lived in Indiana. The WFI played a heavy schedule of games in the Midwest and east. At 39, Jim was nearing the end of his competitive athletic career so didn’t play full games as he had when he was young. A quarter of intense exercise on the court was enough for him. As of March 31, 1927 Jim Thorpe’s hoopsters were 42-14 with the season not yet finished and baseball just around the corner. Instead of barnstorming with an all-Indian team that summer, Jim played baseball with a team of college players he and Ohio State University star Chic Harley put together.