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Slinging Sammy


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An interesting article and read from the Toronto Star. Does make you feel old if you saw LeBaron or Maynard play!

Hall of Famer Baugh still slingin'

ROTAN, Texas (AP) — After spitting a load of tobacco juice into a well-worn cup, Sammy Baugh lets out a hearty, toothless laugh, then shoots down the famous tale about his pinpoint accuracy.

According to the story, Baugh was at a practice with the Washington Redskins in his rookie year when a coach told him to aim a pass at a downfield receiver's eye. Baugh looked calmly at the coach and asked, "Which eye?"

"It's one of those things I think just gets started some way," said the West Texas country boy whose 88 years on the range were briefly interrupted by one of the greatest careers in NFL history.

Hyperbolic stories aren't needed to describe Baugh's versatile career. His accomplishments from all over the field are even more amazing in an era of NFL specialization.

In 1943, Baugh led the league in passing, interceptions and punting. In one game, he threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four. He threw six touchdowns in a game — twice — and had an 85-yard punt.

Baugh guided the Redskins to five title games and two championships, playing his entire 16-year career without a face mask. His No. 33 is the only jersey Washington has retired.

The last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural class, Baugh still owns league marks for career punting average (45.1 yards) and season average (51.4).

"It's pretty safe that all the things he did will never be done again," said Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who spent a day with Baugh a few years ago and has stayed in touch with him since.

Nowadays, Baugh rarely strays from his 3,075-hectare ranch located about 150 kilometres southeast of Lubbock. The Hall of Fame and the Redskins have tried to lure him east for ceremonies over the years, and he always turns them down.

He likes the slow pace of his secluded life, but also still enjoys talking football and golf with buddies who call or with an occasional visitor.

A creature of habit, Baugh watches as many Western movies as he can and always eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. He used to drive to the town of Snyder three or four times a week for golf, until sore knees, searing heat and the 160-kilometre round trip made those outings too tough.

"I don't do much anymore. If I don't get back to golf, then hell, I'll be home all the time," said Baugh, who seasons most sentences with "hell," "damn" or both.

But he still looks forward to football season.

"I'll watch it all damn day long," Baugh said. "I like the football they play. They got bigger boys, and they've also got these damn speed merchants that we didn't have in those days. I'd love to be quarterback this day and time."

He especially likes watching the Colts and Manning. They met in 1999 when Sports Illustrated flew Manning to West Texas for a photo shoot featuring stars from different eras.

Manning, one of the few modern players who is also a fan, gets a kick out of their occasional conversations, which are mostly about football and golf.

"He still talks like he's 25 or 30 years old," Manning said. ``He truly says what's on his mind and how he feels."

Baugh appears to be in good shape. There was a bounce in his step as he walked into the dining room of his modest house, and his movements were quick as he scooped up his beloved dog Pee-Wee.

Baugh's reputation began as a star high school football, baseball and basketball player in Swee****er. It grew during his college days at TCU.

It was there that he picked up the nickname "Slingin' Sammy" — but it wasn't for his passing. It was for the hard throws to first base as a shortstop and third baseman.

"Everybody thought I was a better baseball player growing up," he said. "I thought I was going to be a big-league baseball player."

As an All-American football player, he led TCU to a 29-7-3 mark, including victories in the Sugar and Cotton bowls.

He masterfully executed an early version of the West Coast offence at TCU, and he credits Horned Frogs coach Dutch Meyer with his NFL success.

"I was a little ahead of a lot of football players in those days because of Dutch," he said.

When Baugh entered the NFL, the forward pass was so rare that it was used mostly in desperate situations. But Baugh passed any time.

"He was amazing, just tremendously accurate," said Eddie LeBaron, who took over as Washington's quarterback in Baugh's last season. "He could always find a way to throw it off-balance. I've seen him throw the ball overarm, sidearm and underarm and complete them."

As a rookie in 1937, Baugh completed a record 81 passes (about seven a game) and led the league with 1,127 yards. Kurt Warner does that in about three games, but Baugh's numbers were gaudy then. Only six passers averaged three completions a game that year.

He went on to lead the league in passing six times. He still holds Redskins records for career touchdown passes (187) and completion percentage in a season (70.3). His 31 interceptions are third on the team's all-time list.

"There's nobody any better than Sam Baugh was in pro football," said Don Maynard, a Hall of Fame receiver who grew up following the fellow West Texan's career, then was coached by Baugh with the New York Titans in 1960-61.

"When I see somebody picking the greatest player around, to me, if they didn't go both ways, they don't really deserve to be nominated. I always ask, 'Well, how'd he do on defence? How was his punting?"'

Even with all his success with the Redskins, Baugh's goal every fall was to get back to the ranch.

"I was always so damn glad to get out of Washington," he said. ``I enjoyed those years, but I always got out of there as fast as I could. I don't like any damn city, and that's all there is to it. I don't enjoy it one bit."

He bought the Double Mountain Ranch, named for two hills that jut out of the flat earth north of his house, in 1941. He and his wife, Edmonia, who died in 1990, raised five children on the arid expanse covered with mesquite trees, prickly pear cactus and about 500 cows.

He came to the ranch full time in the mid-1960s, after several coaching stops.

"I felt like I was giving up something I really liked, not being able to stay out here on this ranch and ride horses and tend cattle and stuff like that," Baugh said. "That, to me, was the best part of my life. I look back at it now and I'd give anything to do what I used to do."

Baugh pauses, then laughs.

"Of course, without the football, there wouldn't be the ranch."

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Very interesting -- thanks for posting. Given how relatively infrequently those offenses would attempt passes, it's amazing that he has the record for most touchdown passes. People could argue that some of the statistics could be flawed in a modern comparison because pass defenses weren't as sophisticated, but you really get the feeling that Sammy was so good that it wouldn't have made a difference.

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When I first read this report I thought.."Whatever was this reporter thinking!!??" KILOMETRES?? Then I saw it came from the Toronto Star. Whew!! In most parts of Texas, we judge distance by the amount of time it takes to get there, not the miles.

How far is it from Dallas to Houston? 3 hours

This is a great story. Thanks!!



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