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From our files: Sammy Baugh: In Passing

'Slingin' Sammy Baugh, who died yesterday, revolutionized the forward pass as a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Washington Redskins from 1937-1952.

By Margery Miller / December 19, 2008

In this Sept. 13, 1942 file photo, Washington Redskins quarterback Sammy Baugh, left, drops back to pass against the Chicago Bears during a football game in Washington. Baugh, who set numerous passing records with the Washington Redskins in an era when NFL teams were running most every down, died Wednesday night.



From the October 14, 1948 issue of The Christian Science Monitor.

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For years, forward passing was regarded as daring football. Fans usually liked passing because it was exciting to watch, and because danger rode with every attempt at it - danger of interception for the home team, and of completion for the opposition. Either way, passing was spectacular.

While the fans cheered it, however, fundamentalists insisted that it was not sound football. They regarded it as desparation play. Victories won on passes were sometimes termed "fluke" wins. Now the picture is different. The fellow who changed it is a drawling Texan, who proved that passing could be a science instead of a gamble.

Sammy Baugh did not aspire to football greatness as a boy. He wanted to be a baseball player. Just as the baseball major leagues are dotted with frustrated footballers, the football big time is sprinkled with fellows who wanted to play baseball. Sammy probably is the outstanding example.

When he was growing up on a Texas farm, heliked the sandlot game. Texas had good baseball weather, and Sam was determined to make the most of it. Football was not just something to try for the sake of variety, fun to dabble in but lacking in the solid virtues of baseball.

When he was of high school age, Sam retained much the same opinion of the two sports. At this time, the Baughs moved to Sweetwater, Texas, where Sammy went to high school. Tall and slim, Sam did not look much like a football player, but he went out for the team, anyway. He liked sports, and he watend to keep his hand in. If he had not subsequently achieved fame, it is unlikely that anyone who saw Sammy in high school football uniform would remember it now. He was unimpressive. At the time, he apparent lack of outstanding ability did not worry the young fellow, because everyone agreed he was a fine infielder on the high school baseball team.

After graduation, Sam had high hopes of making the major leagues. He joined an Abilene, Texas team as a third baseman, and sports fans continued to point him out as a fine prospect for organized baseball. Among the people who watched him and admired his work on the diamond was Dutch Meyer, baseball coach for Texas Christian University. Meyer thought that Baugh had natural ability as a hitter, and after some time he interested Sammy in going to Texas Christian. Meyer also was freshman football coach at TCU, but he is the first to confess now that he had no suspicions that Sammy Baugh might become a great football player. He knew Sam had played football, and figured he might fill in as a substitute on the freshman team in the baseball off-season.