A Burgundy and Gold Obsession
    2015 BGO Tailgate

    • For the second Blast From The Past....

      Let's see what Slingin' Sammy Baugh thinks of the NFL passing game or thought in the mid-1990's...and who knew his nickname did NOT come from his football passing but from baseball?

      From: 75 Seasons 1920-1995: The Complete Story of the National Football League

      Introduction by Dick Butkus
      Text by: Will McDonough, Peter King, Paul Zimmerman, Vic Carucci, Greg Garber, Kevin Lamb, Joe Gergen, David Rosenthal, C.W. Nevius, Ed Bouchette, Ted Brock, Tom Barnidge, Phil Barber
      p. 84-85
      Slingin’ Tales With Sammy

      The voice has the slightest touch of Texas twang, and it is strong, stronger than you’d expect from an 80-year-old throat. Not quite signal-calling strong, but sharp and biting and quick.

      Sammy Baugh is on the other end of the phone from his ranch in north Texas, and you can’t believe how good he sounds.

      “I love this football they play today,” the player of the forties says. “I really do. But I always laugh when the writers and broadcasters talk about something in the game and it’s new. Hell, I haven’t seen anything new in years and years. When I was in college at TCU, we had a short-passing game, and I brought it with me to Washington. Today they talk about San Francisco like the short-passing game is some new invention. And the Shotgun. We used it at Washington.”

      So the game was just as good half a century ago?

      “Naw,” he says. “I like the game in this day and time better because you can specialize more, and you can have better players on the field at almost all times. In the forties, there was no real speed. When I played, you went both ways, so if there was a guy with good speed, he was so dog-tired by the fourth quarter that it just became a slow quarter. Do you realize we had twenty-three-man rosters? A lot of good offensive boys didn’t make teams because they couldn’t play defense. And some of the good players didn’t look as good because they never got a rest.

      “Besides that, we had some of the craziest rules you ever saw. When I broke in in thirty-seven, you could hit a quarterback until the whistle blew. So you know what every team was told? ‘When the ball is thrown, you chase the quarterback and put him on the ground.’

      “Late in my career, around 1948, I had a roommate, a rookie quarterback named Harry Gilmer. We’re sitting in the room one night and he says, ‘Do you realize you’re moving ninety-five percent of the time you throw?”

      “I say, ‘Of course. When I got into football, if you stayed in one spot and threw, you’d get killed.”
      Some of the game’s all-time greats flourished in the forties. The mighty Cleveland teams of the All-American Football Conference were born in 1946, and they produced one of the best backs ever, Marion Motley, and one of the best two-way linemen, Bill Willis. Both, coincidentally, were black men instrumental in breaking the color barrier in pro football.

      Halfback Steve Van Buren won three straight rushing titled playing for the Eagles, and George Halas had a back who might have set enduring records had his career not been interrupted by World War II; George McAfee led the Bears to three of their four NFL championships in the decade. McAfee ran behind center Clyde (Bulldog) Turner in each of those championship seasons. The best pass catcher of the early forties, Don Hutson of Green Bay, gave way to two receiving gems of the post-war era, Cleveland’s Dante Lavelli and Philadelphia’s Pete Pihos.

      The decade’s unlikeliest hero was Van Buren, who won four NFL rushing titles after getting cut from his high school team because he was a 125-pound weakling. After working in an iron foundry in Louisiana for two years, he played one high-school season well enough to merit a scholarship at LSU. Van Buren joined the Eagles in 1944, and they depended on him like few teams ever depended on a player: He had 59 touchdowns in his first six seasons, unparalleled among runners of that era.

      Philadelphia’s backup quarterback in1947, Allie Sherman, learned a pointed lesson about Van Buren’s impact. After Van Buren had bulled for most of one drive and led the Eagles to the opponent’s 3, Sherman handed the ball to the Eagles’ other back, Joe Muha, who was stopped short of the goal line. Then he gave it to Van Buren, who scored off left tackle.

      “What the hell are you trying to do?” demanded the coach, Earle (Greasy) Neale, when Sherman came off the field.

      “We scored six points,” Sherman said. “Was that wrong?”

      “Yes!” Greasy grouched. “You didn’t give the ball to Van Buren every time!”

      It was a sobering decade, too. With the Bears off to a 5-0 start in 1942, coach George Halas and backup quarterback Young Bussey left for active war duty. Halas came back in 1945 and resumed coaching in 1946. Bussey was killed in action in ‘’45. In all, 21 NFL players or former players died in World War II.

      It was a decade that saw the decline of the 60-minute player. Mourn the loss of the every-down player if you must, but as Baugh says: “I’m telling you, it wasn’t a better game with the two-way players.”

      Baugh knows. He saw it all. From the dusty ranches of central Texas hecame east to Washington in 1937. After 16 seasons, he left a mark time never will erase. Then he returned to his ranch in Rotan, Texas, which he still works today.

      In the true tradition of the Lone Star State, Baugh was bigger than life.He played 60 minutes in most games of his prime, which at the time was nothing remarkable in itself. But Baugh was a decathlete on the football field. At varying times, he was the best defensive back, quarterback, and punter of his era.

      In 1943, Baugh had the best season a pro football player ever had. In a 48-10 victory over Brooklyn, he set an NFL record with 6 touchdown passes. Two weeks later,he set another NFL mark–since equaled, never surpassed—with 4 interceptions from his safety position against Detroit. He led the league in passing, punting and interceptions. We rave today, rightfully, about Deion Sanders playing both ways in a game. We should rave, n retrospect, about Sammy Baugh.

      He seemed to have a sense for the game that was unmatched. In the 1942 NFL Championship Game, the Redskins were playing the perfect (11-0) Bears.. Several times in the game, Baugh had quick-kicked to get his team out of trouble. Trailing 6-0 in the second quarter, the Redskins got the ball for the first time with the wind at their backs. Baugh caught the Bears off guard when, on first down, from the Washington 28, he faked a pass and launched a 61-yard punt that pinned Chicago at its 11.

      “If you were struggling and not moving the ball, and you had the wind with you,” Baugh said,” you could gain thirty-five, forty yards on a change of possession with a quick-kick.”

      The Bears turned over the ball on an interception thrown by Sid Luckman. Washington scored and went on to upset the Bears 14-6.

      Baugh’s 51.4-yard punting average in 1940 still stands as the NFL record.

      And though the decade belonged to Halas and the Bears in a team sense—Chicago was in five title games in the forties, winning four—Baugh stood tallest among his contemporaries.

      “Sammy Baugh was the best player ever,” Luckman, himself a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said years later. “No one will ever equal him.”

      “I no more believe that than nothing,” Baugh says. “It’s a wonderful thing for Sid to say, and I appreciate it immensely, but I don’t believe it. I’ll tell you the best I ever saw: Ace Parker. Played for Brooklyn, and he would have been an all-timer if he hadn’t gotten hurt. He could punt, he could pass, he could run, he could play defense. I mean, he could do it all.”

      Which just points out another trait that made Sammy Baugh the best: humility.
      This article was originally published in forum thread: Doc's Blast from the Past started by Docsandy View original post
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