On this Opening Day we remember Sammy Baugh, who was an innovator of the modern passing offense and a throwback two-way player but – fortunately for the Washington Redskins – merely a middling infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Before Baugh won two NFL championships and joined the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he pursued a professional baseball career.
In 1938 – a year after Baugh led Washington to its first championship as a rookie from Texas Christian University – he had a cup of coffee with Cardinals’ minor league affiliates in Columbus, Ohio, and Rochester, N.Y.
Larry Schwartz wrote for ESPN about Baugh’s roadblocks at the plate:
“Baugh had a couple of problems. One was that he knew he never would be as good as Rochester’s starting shortstop, Marty Marion, who would go on to become a Cardinals regular for 11 years. ‘The other was I couldn’t hit that curve very well,’ Baugh said. ‘So I left in August to play football, and after that I stuck with football.'”
According to the Washington Post, Baugh was first recruited to TCU to play third base. He became a two-time All-American in football and led the Horned Frogs to a national championship in 1935.
Per Betsy Blaney wrote for the Associated Press, Baugh’s nickname came from the velocity of baseballs.
“It was (at TCU) that he picked up the nickname “’Slingin’ Sammy’— but it wasn’t for his passing. It was for the rockets he fired to first base as a shortstop and third baseman.”
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