A January 25, 1913 newspaper article, that I happened upon while searching for something else, discussed something about Jim Thorpe that I hadn’t heard before and was probably lost to history. It is well known that the Cincinnati Reds wanted to sign Thorpe to a professional baseball contract about that time. What isn’t widely known is that another professional team in a different league in a different sport in a different country also wanted Thorpe and, if the reporter was correct, was negotiating with him to sign a contract.
Pop Warner wrote in some detail how he negotiated an exceptionally good contract for Thorpe with John McGraw of the New York Giants baseball team and how the other major league teams wanted him but baseball was the only sport he mentioned in that context. However, the Middletown Daily Times-Press suggested that he might be turning pro in another sport in the article under the headline, “Jim Thorpe May Take Up Professional Hockey.” It reported that Thorpe was negotiating at that time with the Tecumseh team of Toronto. “When questioned W. J. Bellingham, president of the Tecumseh Hockey Club, practically admitted that he was negotiating with Thorpe, but declined to enter into particulars.” Regarding Thorpe’s position, “It is reported that Thorpe will not turn professional unless he receives an ironbound contract calling for a handsome stipend.”
A few factors influenced the outcome, or lack thereof, of these negotiations: 1) They hadn’t seen Thorpe play hockey. He was probably very good, but hiring him sight unseen implies that they were, perhaps, most interested in him as a drawing card, 2) A hockey team of that day couldn’t compete salary-wise with a major league baseball team that was willing to pay Thorpe an exorbitant salary, and 3).Hockey season wouldn’t start until the late fall and Thorpe wanted money sooner so he could get married.