As he picked the Bears' defense to pieces, Baugh, when tackled, would be piled on by Bears players stepping on his hand and twisting his leg to stop him. Nagurski was instructed to knock him out of the game and chased Baugh even after the whistle had blown. On defense, Baugh was often the last man between Nagurski and the goal line. He played in a leather helmet with no facemask and far fewer pads than today.
On that frozen turf that day, Baugh threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns of 35, 55 and 78 yards, leading the Redskins, in their first season, to the NFL title, changing the game of football forever.
"When they call the roll of football heroes, the name of Samuel Adrian Baugh will be hovering near the top." wrote The Washington Post's Shirley Povich, who would himself become one of the legendary names of that Silver Age of American sports.
Soon the slogs in the mud for which Halas' Bears were famous would give way to the air wars conducted by Unitas, Namath, Montana, Elway, Marino, Bradshaw, Brady and Favre. But, as Holley and Barnes write, Sammy Baugh was "The First of the Gunslingers."
Amazingly, given the change in the game, many of Baugh's team and NFL records stand. He led the league in passing six times. Twice, he threw for six touchdowns in a game. His NFL record for punts, a 51.3 yard average in 1940, has never been equaled. In one game, Baugh both threw for four touchdowns and intercepted four passes. And he played for 16 seasons.
He led his team to five division titles and two NFL championships. His No. 33 has been retired. When the Football Hall of Fame was opened in Canton, Ohio, in 1963, only a dozen players joined "Papa Bear" Halas and Marshall in the charter class. Among them: Nagurski; "Red" Grange, the "Galloping Ghost"; Jim Thorpe, decathlon champion of the 1912 Olympics; and Sammy Baugh.
In 1949, Baugh came out to Chevy Chase Playground to visit the Blessed Sacrament CYO championship team. Standing in a raincoat, he fired off a pass that hit my oldest brother Bill in the numbers. Bill held onto the football. A memorable moment in family lore, thanks to a most memorable man, Sammy Baugh, dead at 94 this Christmas.
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