Less than a year after his retirement from baseball, Thorpe was working as an apprentice electrician on power lines in his native city of San Diego, California, when he was accidentally electrocuted at the age of 24. Thorpe stood 6 feet 1 inch (185 m) tall and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg). In 1954, he was named the league"s Most Valuable Player after posting a 28–4 record with the California circuit"s top earned run average, 2.28, in 300 innings pitched.
The performance earned him a five-level promotion to the Major League Cubs at the outset of the 1955 season.
He appeared in two MLB games for the Cubs. In his debut, he worked the final inning of a 14–1 loss at the hands of the Saint Louis Cardinals — but retired the Redbirds in order.
In his second and final stint, Thorpe hurled the final two innings of another losing effort, this time against the Milwaukee Braves, and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits. Thorpe spent the rest of his career in the higher levels of the minors.
He was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1957 Rule 5 draft, but developed a sore arm.
He missed the entire 1958 season after elbow surgery and retired after only three appearances at the Class A level in 1959.