Today I wanted to write about a man I feel should be recognized as one of the greatest players in NFL history. Sammy Baugh played in the 1930’s and 40’s an era largely overlooked by modern day fans but, as you will see he accomplished and did things that nobody will ever do again!
Sammy started out wanting to be a Professional Baseball player but, as happens so often fate intervened. Sammy who was born and raised in Texas received a baseball scholarship out of high school to Washington. State University, a month before arriving he was hurt sliding into second base, when Washington. State found out they removed his scholarship offer. That’s when TCU Head Coach Dutch Meyer stepped in offering Sammy a scholarship and an opportunity to play all 3 sports (Football, Baseball and basketball), Sammy went on to be an all-American in 1935 and 1936, he led the Horned Frogs to two straight bowl games including the first ever Cotton Bowl in 1937, where he was named the MVP of the game.
Sammy’s first love was still baseball and his nickname “Slingin” actually was given to him while playing 3rd base for TCU by a Texas sports writer. Sammy eventually signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937 but, was stuck in the minors behind future Cardinal Marty Marion. Frustrated by his lack of playing time he looked to the NFL where he had been selected in the 1st round of the 1937 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins for a sum of $8,000 making him the highest paid Redskin at the time.
Sammy’s rookie season in Washington was to say the least successful; he led the Redskins to the NFL Championship as there starting Quarterback, Punter and Defensive Back. In the 1937 NFL Championship game he threw for 335 yards and 3 TD’s. The 335 yards stood as a rookie record for yards passing in a playoff game until Russell Wilson broke it in 2012. In 1942 Sammy led an upset of the undefeated Chicago Bears, in the 14-6 victory Sammy threw a TD pass but, most importantly pinned the Bears vaunted offense in bad field position all game long, including an 85 yard quick kick late in the game.
His most impressive year had to be 1943 when he led the league in passing, punting (45.9) and interceptions (11). He had what I believe was the greatest single game performance in NFL history in a 42-20 win over the Detroit Lions. Sammy set a record that I believe will never be broken as he threw 4 Touchdown passes on offense and on defense intercepted 4 passes!
The 1945 season was also historic for Sammy as he completed 70.33% of his passes for the season, a record that stood until Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals broke it in 1982. Today it still stands fourth all time behind Drew Brees who beat it twice and Ken Anderson. Another legendary day for Baugh was November 23, 1947 on a day proclaimed “Sammy Baugh” day by the Washington Touchdown Club, Baugh threw for 335 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Baugh still holds 4 NFL records to this day, they are a record 6 NFL passing titles which, was tied by Steve Young and the most seasons leading the league with the lowest interception percentage(5). In 1940 he averaged 51.4 yards per punt for an entire season and as a Quarterback he still holds the record for yards per attempt in a single game with 18.4 yards per attempt. As a punter Baugh retired with a career average of 45.1 which is second all time to Sean Landeta. Sammy was elected into the inaugural Pro Football Hall Of Fame Class in 1963.
Before everybody starts telling me how the NFL was different back then I would like to add that it was much harder for the quarterback to throw the ball back then, the ball was much rounder and fatter in the middle. For that reason it was much harder to throw the ball back then and, made spirals almost impossible to throw. The greatness of the man is that a lot of his records took 40-50 years for somebody to break them and, some still stand today.