Sammy Baugh

Last updated

Sammy Baugh
Sammy Baugh NYWTS.gif
Baugh in 1938
No. 33
Position: Quarterback,
Free safety
Personal information
Born:(1914-03-17)March 17, 1914
Temple, Texas
Died:December 17, 2008(2008-12-17) (aged 94)
Rotan, Texas
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:182 lb (83 kg)
Career information
High school: Sweetwater
(Sweetwater, Texas)
College: TCU
NFL Draft: 1937  / Round: 1 / Pick: 6
Career history
As a player:
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passing yards:21,886
Passer rating:72.2
Punting average:45.1
Player stats at  ·  PFR

Samuel Adrian Baugh (March 17, 1914 – December 17, 2008) was an American professional football player and coach. During his college and professional careers, he most notably played quarterback, but also played as a defensive back and punter. 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 (NFL) for the Washington Redskins from 1937 to 1952. After his playing career, he served as a college coach for Hardin–Simmons University before coaching professionally for the New York Titans and the Houston Oilers.


Baugh led the Washington Redskins to winning the NFL Championship in 1937 and 1942 and was named NFL Player of the Year by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club in 1947 and 1948 for his play. In both of his Player of the Year seasons, he led the league in completions, attempts, completion percentage, and yards. In 1947, he also led the league in passing touchdowns, interception percentage and passer rating. [1]

Primarily known for his passing prowess, Baugh led the league in completion percentage a record eight times, passing yards four times, and three times in passer rating, [2] among other statistics. [1] However, he was also known for his versatility—having the ability to play at a high level as a punter as well as a defensive back. Throughout his career, he led the league in yards per punt five times, as well as yardage in 1943, a year in which he also led the league in defensive interceptions, with 11. [1] His yards per punt of 51.4 during the 1940 season still stands as an NFL record as of 2020. [3]

Baugh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 17-member charter class of 1963, and was also selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994 and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.

Early life

Samuel Adrian Baugh was born on a farm near Temple, Texas, [4] the second son of James, a worker on the Santa Fe Railroad, [5] and Lucy Baugh. His parents later divorced and his mother raised the three children. [5] When he was 16, the family then moved to Sweetwater, Texas, [4] and he attended Sweetwater High School. [6] As the quarterback [7] 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. [4] But apparently, Baugh would practice punting more than throwing. [8]

Baugh, however, really wanted to become a professional baseball player and almost received a scholarship to play at Washington State University. [8] About a month before he started at Washington State, however, Baugh hurt his knee while sliding into second base during a game, and the scholarship fell through. [8]

College career

College football

After coach Dutch Meyer told him he could play three sports (football, baseball, and basketball), [9] Baugh attended Texas Christian University. While at Texas Christian, he threw 587 passes in his three varsity seasons for 39 touchdowns. [10] Baugh was named an All-American in 1935 and 1936. [10] He also led TCU to two bowl game wins, a 3–2 victory over LSU in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, and a 16-6 victory over Marquette in the first annual Cotton Bowl Classic in 1937 [10] after which he was named MVP. [4] He finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy in 1936. [11]

In the spring of his senior year, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall offered Baugh $4,000 to play with the franchise. [9] 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. [5] [9]

YearCompAttComp %PassingTD

College and minor league baseball

Baugh was also a baseball player at Texas Christian, where he played third base. [4] [12] It was during his time as a baseball player that he earned the nickname "Slingin' Sammy", [12] which he got from a Texas sportswriter. [4] After college, Sammy signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and was sent to the minor leagues to play with the American Association Columbus Red Birds in Columbus, Ohio after being converted to shortstop. He was then sent to the International League's Rochester, New York Red Wings, St. Louis's other top farm club. [4] While there he received little playing time behind starting shortstop Marty Marion [4] and was unhappy with his prospects. He then turned to professional football. [12]

Professional career

Baugh in September 1937, shortly after being drafted by the Washington Redskins. Sammy Baugh Sept 11 1937.tif
Baugh in September 1937, shortly after being drafted by the Washington Redskins.

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. [13] He signed a one-year contract with the Redskins and received $8,000, making him the highest-paid player on the team. [4]

During his rookie season in 1937, Baugh played quarterback (although in Washington's formation he was officially lined up as a tailback or halfback until 1944), defensive back, and punter, set an NFL record for completions with 91 in 218 attempts and threw for a league-high 1,127 yards. [12] 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. [4] His 335 passing yards remained the most ever in a playoff game by any rookie quarterback in NFL history until Russell Wilson broke the record in 2012. 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. [4] After the game, Baugh was asked what would have happened if the Redskins' first drive had resulted in a touchdown. He shrugged and replied "What? The score would have been 73-7."

Baugh's heyday would come during World War II. 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. [4] 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. [4]

"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."

—Baugh, on his $8,000 salary. [9]

Baugh had what many consider to be the greatest single-season performance by a pro football player during 1943 in which he led the league in pass completions, punting (45.9-yard average) and interceptions (11). [4] [13] One of Baugh's more memorable single-game performances during the season was when he threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four passes in a 42–20 victory over Detroit. [4] He was selected as an All-Pro tailback that year. 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. [4]

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 fourth-best today (to Ken Anderson, 70.55 in 1982, and Drew Brees, 70.62 in 2009, 71.23 in 2011). [4] 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 was 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 angry 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". [14]

"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. [12]

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. [4] Against the Chicago Cardinals he passed for 355 yards and six touchdowns. [4] [13] 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. [4]

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. [4] 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. [5] Baugh won numerous NFL passing titles and earned first-team All-NFL honors four times in his career. He completed 1,693 of 2,995 passes for 21,886 yards. [4] [13]


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. [15] 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." [15] 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". [15]

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). [12] He is also fourth 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). [12]

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. [4] [12] He led the league in punting from 1940 through 1943. [13] 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. [4] [12]

As one of the best-known of the early NFL quarterbacks, Baugh is likely to be compared to more recent great players. As noted by Michael Wilbon in The Washington Post , the football of Baugh's era 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). [15] Additionally, it is important to point out that pass-interference rules have intensified dramatically, inflating modern quarterbacks' statistics. [16]

Coaching career

While playing for the Redskins, Baugh and teammate Wayne Millner were assistant coaches with The Catholic University of America's Cardinals, and went with them to the 1940 Sun Bowl. [17] Baugh left Washington, D.C. in 1952. He chose not to return for Redskins team functions, despite repeated organization invitations. [5] After his playing career, he became head coach at Hardin–Simmons University where he compiled a 23–28 record between 1955 and 1959. [4] [5]

Baugh was the first coach of the New York Titans (Which eventually became the New York Jets)of the American Football League in 1960 and 1961 compiling a record of 14-14. 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. [18] In 1964, Baugh coached the AFL's Houston Oilers and went 4–10. [4] [5]


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. [5] [19]

Robert Duvall patterned the role of Gus McCrae in the television series Lonesome Dove after Baugh, particularly his arm movements, after visiting him at his home in Texas in 1988. [15]

Personal and later life

After retiring from football, Baugh and his wife Edmonia Smith moved to the ranch, where they had four boys and a girl. [5] Edmonia died in 1990, after 52 years of marriage to Baugh, who was her high school sweetheart. [5] According to his son, Baugh derived far more pleasure from ranching than he ever had from football, saying that he enjoyed the game, but if he could live his life over again, he probably wouldn't play sports at all.

Baugh's health began to decline after the death of his wife. During his last years, he lived in a nursing home in a little West Texas town called Jayton, 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). [5]


The Associated Press quoted Baugh's son on December 17, 2008, saying Baugh had died after numerous health issues, including Alzheimer's disease, at Fisher County Hospital in Rotan, Texas. [20] He is interred at Belvieu Cemetery in Rotan.

Honors and tributes

Baugh was the last surviving member of the 17-member charter class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. [5] Additionally, he was honored by the Redskins with the retirement of his jersey number, No. 33, one of only two numbers officially retired by the team.

Hip hop artist Jay-Z wore Baugh's Mitchell & Ness 1947 Washington jersey in his 2002 video for "Girls, Girls, Girls." This increased demand for the throwback jersey and renewed popular awareness of Baugh. [21]

Additional Honors

NFL career statistics

Led the league
NFL record
Won the NFL championship
NFL Player of the Year
BoldCareer high
1937 WAS 1158117147.41,1278148.2596.650.5
1938 WAS 936312849.28535118.6606.748.1
1939 WAS 91539655.2518699.4445.452.3269986938.4
1940 WAS 111111117762.71,36712105.6817.785.6351,7998551.4384
1941 WAS 11110619354.91,23610199.8556.452.2301,4627548.7483
1942 WAS 11813222558.71,52416114.9536.882.5371,7857448.2577
1943 WAS 10713323955.61,75423197.9727.378.0502,2958145.911112
1944 WAS 848214656.2849485.5715.859.4441,7877640.6421
1945 WAS 8812818270.31,6691142.2709.2109.9331,4295743.34114
1946 WAS 1128716154.01,16381710.6517.254.2331,4886045.1
1947 WAS 12121035459.32,93825154.2748.392.0351,5286743.7
1948 WAS 12318531558.72,59922237.3868.378.3
1949 WAS 12814525556.91,90318145.5767.581.21535353.0
1950 WAS 1179016654.21,13010116.6566.868.193525839.1
1951 WAS 1296715443.51,10471711.0537.243.842215355.3
1952 WAS 75203360.6152213.0204.679.41484848.0

Source: [1] [2]

Head coaching record


Hardin–Simmons Cowboys (Border Conference)(1955–1959)
1955 Hardin–Simmons 5–53–23rd
1956 Hardin–Simmons 4–61–35th
1957 Hardin–Simmons 5–53–2T–3rd
1958 Hardin–Simmons 6–54–01stL Sun
1959 Hardin–Simmons 3–72–2T–3rd
      National championship        Conference title        Conference division title or championship game berth


TeamYearRegular SeasonPost Season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
NYJ 1960 770.5002nd in AFL East---
NYJ 1961 770.5003rd in AFL East---
HOU 1964 4100.2864th in AFL East---
NYJ Total14140.500
HOU Total4100.286

See also

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