- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

Two significant things happened after the Washington Redskins gave pro football's greatest passer of his time a new station wagon on "Sammy Baugh Day" at Griffith Stadium on Nov. 23, 1947.
The first was that Baugh threw for six touchdowns as a mediocre Redskins team clobbered the NFL champions-to-be Chicago Cardinals 45-21.
The second was that he wrecked the station wagon a short time later. Baugh was not seriously hurt in the accident. He played another five seasons with the Redskins, retiring in 1952 as the first 16-year-man in NFL history.
As far as old-timers here are concerned, no passer ever threw a football better than Samuel Adrian Baugh, a single-wing tailback his first seven seasons before the Redskins switched to the newfangled T-formation in 1944.
When Baugh retired, he held most NFL passing records, all of them set in an era when teams threw far less frequently than now. Example: In leading the Redskins to the NFL title in 1937 the first NFL season for both him and the city Baugh threw just 171 times and completed 47 percent for seven touchdowns.
And although the 1947 season was his best and busiest (210-for-354, 2,938 yards, 25 touchdowns, 59 percent), he still averaged just 29.5 attempts per game. In those days, you see, quarterbacks didn't have four and five possible receivers on every play.
Nonetheless, Baugh shared the distinction of being Washington's favorite pro athlete of all time with longtime Senators pitching star Walter Johnson. And his best game came on the day he was hailed loud and long before a capacity crowd of 35,362 at Clark Griffith's old ball yard at Seventh Street and Florida Avenue NW.
Baugh's big day was about the only bright spot in a dismal 4-8 season for the Redskins, by far their worst since deserting Boston for the nation's capital. In its first nine seasons (1937-45), Washington won two NFL and five Eastern Division titles. But in 1946, the Redskins skidded to 5-5-1, and '47 was even worse. They had lost five straight for a 2-6 record when the suddenly competitive Cardinals came to town with their famed "Dream Backfield" (future Hall of Famer Charlie Trippi, Elmer Angsman, Pat Harder and Paul Christman).
Although nobody knew it, the Redskins were starting a long descent accelerated by owner George Preston Marshall's refusal to employ black players in the 1950s because his team's TV network blanketed the entire South. From 1945 until 1972, the playoffs were only a rumor for Washington fans until first George Allen and then Joe Gibbs coached the Redskins back to respectability, and then some.
The Cardinals, with a 7-1 record and the league's best defense, were two-touchdown favorites when they trotted onto the field after the Baugh ceremonies concluded. But the Redskins scored the first two touchdowns and were never in danger as Slingin' Sam completed 25 of 33 passes for 355 yards. His six TDs matched his personal high against Brooklyn in 1943 and were one shy of the NFL mark held by his great rival, Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears.
Sam also set an NFL record for completions in a season with three games remaining, boosting his total to 151 and surpassing his own 149 of four years earlier.
Usually a typically taciturn Texan, Baugh let his emotions show as he addressed the crowd before the game, saying, "I think you're the greatest bunch of fans any player ever had the opportunity to play before. I thank you."
Baugh was introduced by Attorney General Tom Clark. When the $3,000 station wagon was presented, Sam let out an amazed whistle. It was painted burgundy and had "Slingin' Sam the Redskin Man" lettered on the side in gold (the team's colors, of course).
Soon thereafter, it also had the rear right door torn off and the front right door badly dented. Returning from a trip to Philadelphia, Baugh swerved to avoid an oncoming car and crashed into a culvert on what was called the Washington-Baltimore Boulevard aka U.S. Route 1 near the District line about 9 p.m. He told police he was "only slightly shaken up" despite a bump on his head and would be able to play the following Sunday against the Boston Yanks.
"I saw the car before it ever got to me," Baugh said. "It was coming across the middle of the road. "I moved over to the right a little bit, but he kept coming toward me, so I had to do something. I thought he was going to hit me head-on. I slid into the gravel and into a concrete bridge."
Despite that frightening experience, Baugh got up the next morning and traveled to Alexandria to crown the homecoming queen at the annual Thanksgiving Day football game between George Washington and Washington-Lee high schools.
The great ones always hang in there.


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