Saturday, December 20, 2008

 

Slingin' Sammy Baugh Passes Away

Please excuse the bad pun, but Sammy Baugh, last surviving member of the inaugural class of the NFL Hall of Fame, died in Dec. 17 at the age of 94. Baugh revolutionized the passing game.



How good was Sammy Baugh? This good:
Baugh was the best all-around player in an era when such versatility was essential. In 1943, he led the league in passing, punting and defensive interceptions. In one game, he threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four as well. He threw six touchdowns passes in a game twice. His 51.4-yard punting average in 1940 is still the NFL record.
Baugh still holds Redskins records for career touchdown passes (187) and completion percentage in a season (70.3). His 31 interceptions on defense are third on the team's career list.
Baugh still holds the NFL record for the most years leading the league in passing. He is tied for the most interceptions in a game, not thrown, made. He played defense too. He is also tied for the most years, 4, leading the league in punting.

He accomplished all this with only a leather helmet and no face mask. Sometimes when co-workers start debating who were the best players in the NFL, I'll bring up Sammy Baugh and, if needed, show them the record book. No doubt, Sammy Baugh was one of the greatest of all time.

My favorite Sammy Baugh story as told by Sammy himself.
Baugh matched his finesse with toughness.

"One time there was a defensive lineman who was coming down on me with his fists closed," he once told The San Antonio Express-News. "A couple of plays later, I found a play we could waste and I told our linemen to just let him come through.

"The guy got about five feet from me, and I hit him right in the forehead with the ball. He turned red and passed out. It scared the hell out of me."

More here and here.

P.S. - My first introduction to Sammy Baugh was from a book my Uncle Dan gave to me for Christmas in 1964, 100 Greatest Sports Heroes by Mac Davis, illustrated by Samuel Nisenson. Some of these heroes are women. Heroines like Flore3nce Chadwick, Maureen Connolly, Babe Didrickson, Gertrude Ederle, and others. I still have the book and treasure the lessons I learned reading about the hard work, toughness and perseverance it takes to succeed. Thanks, Uncle Dan.

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