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The Revolutionary Tale of “Slinging” Sammy Baugh

The Revolutionary Tale of "Slinging" Sammy Baugh and how one man Changed the NFL Forever

A Childhood Full of Swinging Tires and Football

Sammy Baugh was born on March 17, 1914, on a farm near Temple, Texas. At the age of 16 his family moved to Sweet Water, Texas. Once Baugh entered high school he became the quarterback for his school’s team.

At this point, Baugh felt a deep drive within himself to become a better quarterback so he could be a leader on his team. As a result, he suspended an old automobile tire casing from a high tree limb in his yard. Baugh would then swing the tire back and forth. After the tire was swinging, Baugh would walk anywhere from 10-20 feet away from the tire and he’d practice throwing the football through the hole in the tire.

Baugh would often practice like this for hours on in. One of his favorite throws to practice was the on the run throw.

Sammy Baugh’s Collegiate Career

During Baugh’s freshman season, Baugh struggled. He only completed 40.4% of his passes on 171 attempts. As a result, Texas Christian University went 8-4 on the season.

In his sophomore year, Baugh had a breakout season throwing for 1,241 yards on 210 attempts while completing 46.2 percent of his passes. The team would go unbeaten during the first 10 games and would go on to edge out LSU in the Sugar Bowl. The game was played in really muddy conditions, so as a result, it was a low scoring affair at 3-2.

Baugh had an even more statistically productive junior season, even if the team was less talented as a whole. He threw for 1,196 yards, with a 50.5 percent completion clip during the 1936 season. The team would would go on to win the Cotton Bowl against an undefeated Marquette team 16-6. Baugh would go on to be named MVP of the game and would end up fourth in Heisman voting on the year.

George Preston Marshall’s Initial contract offer

Redskins’ owner George Preston Marshall initially offered Baugh a $4,000 contract to play for the team. However Baugh was originally unsure of the decision to play professional sports, so Baugh waited to respond to the offer until after the college all-star game where the college all-stars defeated the NFL organization the Green Bay Packers 6-0. Baugh responded to Marshall’s initial offer by doubling the salary at $8,000 and Marshall happily obliged to Baugh’s request.

Years later Baugh stated “I didn’t know how much pro players were making, but I thought they were making pretty good money. So I asked Mr. Marshall for $8,000, and I finally got it. Later I felt like a robber when I found out what Cliff Battles and some of those other good players were making. I’ll tell you what the highest-priced boy in Washington was getting the year before—not half as much as $8,000! Three of them—Cliff Battles, Turk Edwards and Wayne Millner—got peanuts, and all of ’em in the Hall of Fame now. If I had known what they were getting I’d have never asked for $8,000.”

A Successful Rookie Campaign Turns Into a Strike Out at the Plate!

Sammy Baugh
Image courtesy of
Baugh playing minor league baseball

At 6-feet-2, a rookie Baugh would lead his team to a championship victory over the Chicago Bears 28-21. This game would arguably change the way NFL teams viewed the concept of passing the ball as Baugh went 17-33 for 335 yards despite playing in frigid conditions. However, Baugh felt like he might’ve been better at baseball than football. He felt this way due to the fact that he played third base in college for TCU as well as football.

As a result, Roger Hornsby ( a St.Louis Cardinals scout at the time)  signed Baugh to a short term contract. During this time Baugh got sent down to Triple-A baseball. Afterward Baugh got sent down to Double-A and he was forced to convert to playing shortstop. During this time period, he was used Marty Marion’s backup.

Marion was a good shortstop who eventually would go on to play for the St.Louis Cardinals for 11 seasons. It was at this point that Baugh realized he needed to return to the Redskins.

The one man who Played Three Positions

Sammy Baugh
Image courtesy of
Baugh punting during the 1937 NFL Championship game

Between 1940 and 1943, the Redskins and Bears met three times in the championship game. The 1940 Championship Game ended up being the most one-sided victory in the history of the NFL, as the Bears beat the Redskins 73-0. When a reporter tried speaking with Baugh after the game the reporter asked Baugh what would’ve happened if the Redskins first drive had ended in a touchdown to which Baugh replied: “the final score would’ve been 73-7.”

One of Baugh’s best seasons occurred during World War ll. During the 1942 season, the Redskins won the East Conference with a 10-1 record.

During that same year the Bears held a record of 11-0. Impressively Baugh punted the ball 85 yards during one play in the championship game. The Redskins would go on to win the game 14-6.

During the 1943 season, Baugh had what many believe is the greatest single-season performance of an NFL player all time. During which he led the NFL in punting (45.9-yard average), passing and interceptions (Baugh played defensive back also).

Former Redskins Bill Dudley once stated ” “He’s the best, as far as I’m concerned. Not only could he throw the ball, he could play defense, he could punt the football, he ran it when he had to. He and I roomed together, and he was a football man. He knew football, played it, and everybody had a lot of confidence in him.”

An Accurate arm During the Ladder Stages of his Career

In 1945 Baugh completed 70.33 percent of his passes. This was an NFL record at the time and to this date ranks fourth best only to Ken Anderson at 70.55 percent in 1982 and Drew Brees twice (2009 at 70.62% and 2011 at 71.23%). That season he’d go on to throw only four interceptions, while also throwing 11 touchdowns.

The Redskins would win the East Conference only to lose to the Cleveland Rams in the Championship game 15-14. The loss wasn’t well-received due to a fluke safety that occurred. The safety happened when Baugh dropped back into the end zone to throw only for the football to hit the crossbar. At this time the field goal posts were located on the goal line and if a pass hit the crossbar and fell to the ground in the end zone the play would be ruled a safety.

Marshall was so angry at the call, that he became a major advocate in the NFL changing the rule the following season. As a result, this became known as the Baugh/Marshall Rule.

The In-statement  of Sammy Baugh Day in Washington DC

On November 23, 1947, the Redskins Touchdown Club honored Baugh by getting him a station wagon. On that date Baugh passed for 355 yards and six touchdowns. According to reports, Baugh felt extremely nervous before the game as he didn’t want to let the fans/organization down after they provided him with such an extravagant gift.

During the 1947 season, the Redskins would finish with a 4-8 record, however, Baugh would have career highs in completions (210), attempts (354), yards (2,938) and touchdown passes (25). Each of those stats led the league.

Did Sammy Baugh Want to Retire in the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Farms?

Baugh would go on to play five more seasons. He led the league in completion percentage during the 1948 and 1949 campaigns. He would then retire in 1952 after a 27-21 home win against the Philadelphia Eagles at Griffith Stadium. When he walked off the field, the crowd gave him a prolonged standing ovation.

Baugh won six NFL passing titles and earned first-team All-NFL honors seven times throughout his career. He would go on to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.

Baugh would later go on to say that he wished he didn’t play professional football and instead worked on a farm. He would go on to pass away at the age of 91 on December 17, 2008.

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