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Monday, August 18, 2008

Card Of the Week 8/18/08

Ok, my Olympic posts have been a bit derailed because I've been spending my free time watching the Olympics. Oh, the irony. The 1996 SI Olympic Magazine posts have been utterly abandoned because it's too freaking depressing. Thanks, Sports Illustrated, for whining and bitching about how shitty the Atlanta Olympics were in a magazine meant to be a keepsake for those games. You guys got your Olympic advertising money, so choke on it. I might suck it up and scan all the Baseball and Softball photos and post them though. I do have plenty of Olympic cards for you, including the set this card is from:

This is the Jim Thorpe card from Impel's 1991 US Olympic Cards Hall Of Fame series. I remember Impel as a company that produced Star Trek and Comic cards, but Chris Harris of Stale Gum tells me that they were Skybox Basketball before Fleer bought them up. I'm going to defer to the perfessor on this one because I just liked the funky computer graphics on their cards and didn't pay much attention to the corprate wheeling and dealing back then. I can see the resemblance though, these Olympic cards are on similar card stock as the hoops cards and they have gold ink highlights while the inaugural Skybox set was loaded with gold ink. These are pretty good looking cards, they have a cloudy blue border with a red white and blue ribbon cutting through the middle and a clean photo. The backs are nice as well, more ribbons, a different photo at the top left corner, a writeup on the athlete's career with Olympic highlights and a nifty logo on the bottom corner indicating the sport. My feature card from this set is of legendary athlete Jim Thorpe.

Jim was good at everything. Track and field, football, baseball, lacrosse, he was even a mightly fine dancer. Thorpe was best known for his football play, but he effortlessly dominated track and field and was on the American team for the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm to compete in the Decathlon and Pentathlon. Thorpe crushed his competition, winning eight of fifteen events outright and finishing in the top 4 in every event to win Gold in both. 1912 was not the time of Dream Teams though and there was a very strict amateur policy for athletes playing in the games. Back then a "strict amateur policy" was basically a way for the elites running various leagues and athletic associations to keep out any undesirable working class or minority competitors they wanted to exclude. The original "Gentleman's Agreement" in baseball's National Association was such a ban on professional athletes in an attempt to keep the working classes out, but once team owners realized that the working classes were damn good ballplayers the agreement was amended to just include a ban on black players. While it is true that Thorpe did play baseball in the minor leagues for pay before the 1912 Olympics, Thorpe had no idea of the Olympic rules back then and the Amateur Athletic Association was aware of the problem and ignored it for such a dynamic athlete. After his professional status had been discovered (mainly because Jim didn't bother to play under an assumed name as was the custom among college athletes at the time) Thorpe's medals were stripped even though the 30-day window for protests had long passed. While completely unfair to Thorpe, it did open the door for him to become a full-time professional athlete.

Thorpe was most successful as a professional football player. He starred with the Canton Bulldogs and was the first President of the league that would become the NFL. Before he played pro football though, he was signed by John McGraw's Giants to play the outfield and attract some fans to watch the famous athlete. Thorpe's stats were lackluster for the Giants and he was sent to Milwaukee (Hi Thorzul) to play in the minors and was ultimately sold to the Reds (Hi Joe) who gave him back to the Giants the next year. Jim had one more stop in this major league baseball career though. In 1919 the Giants traded him to...


Ah, you knew I'd sneak some Braves into these Olympics somehow didn't you? Jim finished his career with the Bravos and had his best season at the plate, hitting .327 while playing part-time in the outfield. And since he retired with the Braves that means he's a Brave forever. And you thought Deion was our first multi-sport star. It looks like I have one more card to add to my 2006 Allen & Ginter Braves team set now!

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