Samuel Adrian "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh (March 17, 1914 – December 17, 2008) was an American football player and coach. He played college football for the Horned Frogs at Texas Christian University, where he was a two-time All-American. He then played in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins from 1937 to 1952. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 17-member charter class of 1963.
Baugh was born on a farm near Temple, Texas, and was the second son of James, who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, and Lucy Baugh. His parents later divorced and his mother raised the three children. When he was 16, the family then moved to Sweetwater, Texas, and he attended Sweetwater High School. As the quarterback of his high school football team (Sweetwater Mustangs), he would practice for hours throwing a football through a swinging automobile tire, often on the run. But apparently, Baugh would practice punting more than throwing.
Baugh, however, really wanted to become a professional baseball player and almost received a scholarship to play at Washington State University. But about a month before he started at Washington State, Baugh hurt his knee while sliding into second base during a game, and the scholarship fell through.
After coach Dutch Meyer told him he could play three sports (football, baseball, and basketball), Baugh attended Texas Christian University. While at Texas Christian, he threw 587 passes in his three varsity seasons for 39 touchdowns. Baugh was named an All-American in 1935 and 1936. He also led TCU to two bowl game wins, a 3–2 victory over Louisiana State in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, and a 16-6 victory over Marquette in the first annual Cotton Bowl Classic in 1937 after which he was named MVP. He finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1936.
In the spring of his senior year, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall offered Baugh $4,000 to play with the franchise. Originally unsure about playing professional football (coach Meyer offered him a job as the freshman coach, and he still thought about playing professional baseball), he did not agree to the contract until after the College All-Star Game, where the team beat the Green Bay Packers, 6–0.
Baugh was also a baseball player at Texas Christian, where he played third base. It was during his time as a baseball player that he earned the nickname "Slingin' Sammy", which he got from a Texas sportswriter. After college, Sammy signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and was sent to the minor leagues in Columbus, Ohio after being converted to shortstop. He was then sent to an even lower league in Rochester, New York. While there he received little playing time behind starting shortstop Marty Marion and was unhappy with his prospects, so he then turned to professional football.
"I didn't know what they were talking about, because frankly, I had never heard of either the draft or the Washington Redskins." Sammy Baugh, on being drafted.As expected, Baugh was drafted in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1937 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, the same year the team moved from Boston. He signed a one-year contract with the Redskins and received $8,000, making him the highest paid player on the team. He is credited for making the forward pass an integral part of the offensive play in the NFL.
During his rookie season in 1937, Baugh played quarterback, defensive back, and punter, set an NFL record for completions with 91 in 218 attempts and threw for a league-high 1,127 yards. He led the Redskins to the NFL Championship game against the Chicago Bears, where he finished 17 of 33 for 335 yards and his second-half touchdown passes of 55, 78 and 33 yards gave Washington a 28–21 victory. His 335 passing yards are the most in a playoff game by any rookie QB in NFL history. The Redskins and Bears would meet three times in championship games between 1940 and 1943. In the 1940 Championship game, the Bears recorded the most one-sided victory in NFL history, beating Washington 73–0.
In 1942, Baugh and the Redskins won the East Conference with a 10–1 record. During the same season the Bears went 11–0 and outscored their opponents 376–84. In the 1942 Championship game, Baugh threw a touchdown pass and kept the Bears in their own territory with some strong punts, including an 85-yard quick kick, and Washington won 14–6. "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." Sammy Baugh, on his $8,000 salary.Baugh was even more successful in 1943 and led the league in passing, punting (45.9-yard average) and interceptions (11). One of Baugh's more memorable single performances during the season was when he threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four passes in a 42–20 victory over Detroit. The Redskins again made it to the championship game, but lost to the Bears 41–21. During the game, Baugh suffered a concussion while tackling Bears quarterback Sid Luckman and had to leave.
During the 1945 season, Baugh completed 128 of 182 passes for a 70.33 completion percentage, which was an NFL record then and remains the third best today (to Ken Anderson, 70.55 in 1982, and Drew Brees, 70.62 in 2009). He threw 11 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. The Redskins again won the East Conference but lost 15–14 in the 1945 Championship game against the Cleveland Rams. The one-point margin of victory came under scrutiny because of a safety that occurred early in the game. In the first quarter, the Redskins had the ball at their own 5 yard line. Dropping back into the end zone, Baugh threw to an open receiver, but the ball hit the goal post (which at the time were on the goal line instead of at the back of the end zone) and bounced back to the ground in the end zone. Under the rules at the time, this was ruled as a safety and thus gave the Rams a 2–0 lead. It was that safety that proved to be the margin of victory. Owner Marshall was so mad at the outcome that he became a major force in passing the following major rule change after the season: A forward pass that strikes the goal posts is automatically ruled incomplete. This later became known as the "Baugh/Marshall Rule". "The best, as far as I’m concerned. He could not only 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." Bill Dudley, on Sammy Baugh.One of Baugh's more memorable single performances came on "Sammy Baugh Day" on November 23, 1947. That day, the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club honored him at Griffith Stadium and gave him a station wagon. Against the Chicago Cardinals he passed for 355 yards and six touchdowns. That season, the Redskins finished 4–8, but Baugh had career highs in completions (210), attempts (354), yards (2,938) and touchdown passes (25), leading the league in all four categories.
Baugh played for five more years—leading the league in completion percentage for the sixth and seventh times in 1948 and 1949. He then retired after the 1952 season. In his final game, a 27–21 win over Philadelphia at Griffith Stadium, he played for several minutes before retiring to a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd. Baugh won a record-setting six NFL passing titles and earned first-team All-NFL honors seven times in his career. He completed 1,693 of 2,995 passes for 21,886 yards.
By the time he retired, Baugh set 13 NFL records in three player positions: quarterback, punter, and defensive back. He is considered one of the all-time great football players. He gave birth to the fanaticism of Redskins fans. As Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post says: "He brought not just victories but thrills and ignited Washington with a passion even the worst Redskins periods can barely diminish." He was the first to play the position of quarterback as it is played today, the first to make of the forward pass an effective weapon rather than an "act of desperation". He was the last surviving member of the inaugural class inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, including Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, Don Hutson, George Halas, Ernie Nevers, and Mel Hein.
Two of his records as quarterback still stand: most seasons leading the league in passing (six; tied with Steve Young) and most seasons leading the league with the lowest interception percentage (five). He is also third in highest single-season completion percentage (70.33), most seasons leading the league in yards gained (four) and most seasons leading the league in completion percentage (seven).
As a punter, Baugh retired with the NFL record for highest punting average in a career (45.1 yards), and is still second all-time (Shane Lechler 46.5 yards), and has the best (51.4 in 1940) and fourth best (48.7 in 1941) season marks. As a defensive back, he was the first player in league history to intercept four passes in a game, and is the only player to lead the league in passing, punting, and interceptions in the same season. Baugh also led the league in punting from 1940 through 1943.
When comparing Baugh's athletic achievements with modern football greats, consider the actual football he threw then was rounder at the ends and fatter in the middle than the one used today, making it far more difficult to pass well (or even to create a proper spiral).
Baugh left Washington D.C. in 1952. He chose not to return for Redskins team functions, despite repeated organization invitations. After his playing career, he became head coach at Hardin-Simmons University where he compiled a 23–28 record between 1955 and 1959. Baugh was the first coach of the New York Titans of the American Football League in 1960 and 1961. He was an assistant at the University of Tulsa in 1963 under head coach Glenn Dobbs. At Tulsa, he coached All-American quarterback Jerry Rhome. In 1964, Baugh coached the AFL's Houston Oilers and went 4–10.
Baugh also took up acting. In 1941, he made $6,400 for starring in a 12-week serial as a dark-haired Texas Ranger named Tom King. The serial, called King of the Texas Rangers, was released by Republic Studios. The episodes ran in theaters as Saturday matinees; it also starred Duncan Renaldo, later famous as TV's Cisco Kid.
Early in his career, Baugh paid $200 an acre for a 7,600-acre (31 km2) ranch in West Texas, 80 miles (130 km) northwest of Abilene. After retiring from football all together, Baugh and Edmonia Smith, his wife, moved to the ranch and had four boys and a girl. Edmonia died in 1990, after 52 years of marriage to Baugh, who was her high school sweetheart.
Baugh lived in a nursing home in a little West Texas town not far from Double Mountain Ranch. The Double Mountain Ranch is now in the hands of Baugh's son David and is still a cow-calf operation, on 20,000 acres (81 km2).
The Associated Press quoted Baugh's son on December 17, 2008, saying Baugh had died after numerous health issues at Fisher County Hospital in Rotan, Texas.
Baugh was the last surviving member of the 17-member charter class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Additionally he was honored by the Redskins with the retirement of his jersey number, #33, the only number the team has officially retired.
- An avenue in his hometown of Rotan, Texas
- 50th Anniversary Team by the NFL (1969)
- 75th Anniversary Team by the NFL (1994)
- 36th greatest athlete of the 20th century by Burt Randolph Sugar (1995)
- 64th greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN (1999)
- 43rd greatest athlete of the 20th century by the Associated Press (1999)
- 3rd greatest NFL player of the 20th century by the Associated Press (1999)
- 11th greatest NFL player of the 20th century by The Sporting News (1999); highest-ranking player for the Redskins
- Scripps-Howard all-time college football team (1999)
- 4th greatest college football player by SPORT magazine (1999)
- 3rd greatest college football player by College Football News (2003)
- 7th greatest college football player by Brad Rawlins (2006)
- 5th greatest college football player by ESPN (2007)
- Named starting quarterback, defensive back and punter of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.com "All-Time 11" (2006)
- Named as the Most Versatile Player of all-time by the NFL Network (2007).
- Has his number retired at Sweetwater High School, his alma mater.
- Has a children's home in Jayton, Kent County, Texas named in his honor.
- TCU's indoor practice facility is named after him.