It’s nearly a prerequisite to include Sammy Baugh on any “greats” list for the Washington Redskins. The resume speaks for itself: Pro Football Hall of Fame (1963), the best quarterback in franchise history, one of the greatest punters in NFL history — his 51.4 yards per punt in 1940 is still a NFL record — elite cornerback — his 31 interceptions are third in franchise history — and, inarguably, the greatest player to ever wear a ‘Skins uniform. Baugh also played in an increasingly mythical era when players never left the field, wore leather helmets, never knew a facemask and always competed in the elements.
No, if Baugh was seated across the table from me, I don’t think I’d struggle for conversational content while sharing some suds. We would, of course, recount his enormous personal accolades, and I’d have to hear him tell some stories about the 1937 and 1942 NFL championships. Beyond the obvious, I’d love to hear about the NFL’s infantile era in Baugh’s words, and I would crave his opinion on today’s game — specifically, the growth of the forward pass that very much can trace its place in the game to Baugh. I’d also ask if he shares my opinion that the NFL is far behind MLB or the NBA in embracing and promoting its history and its former stars. More directly, I’d want to know if he felt underappreciated or shamefully forgotten in retirement.
What would I want to know above all else? I suppose if he wished he had been born 70 years later into the pass-happy, star-studded, hugely popular and multi-million dollar game of today. If Sammy Baugh were in his prime in 2013, he would be a star of Manning, Brady and Rodgers proportions — paid and covered similarly. Would he want to be a star in 2013? Or, was being a star in the ‘30s and ‘40s more befitting his style?
Before taking the last swig off my pint, I want to look Mr. Baugh straight in the eye and thank him for solidifying a transplant team’s place in the nation’s capital and for his considerable and undervalued contributions to a great game.