Take Peyton Manning’s arm, Champ Bailey’s instincts and Shane Lechler’s leg, mold those particular talents into one player, and presto….
Sammy Baugh is brought back to life.
The last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first ever class in 1963, Sammy Baugh, has left us. He died Wednesday night at the age of 94. But he also has left a legacy that no football player can match.
In a single season, Slingin’ Sammy led the league in passing, interceptions and punting –- something that never has been done before and never will be done again. He won a Triple Crown in a sport never known for Triple Crowns.
Even in the low-salaried days of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Slingin’ Sammy truly was worth an arm and a leg. He led the NFL in passing six times and punting four times.
Before he won any individual titles, he won the hearts of Washingtonians. When former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was looking for an identity for his team in the nation’s capital, Slingin’ Sammy provided it. He became the face of the franchise long before the Hogs or Joe Gibbs or Daniel Snyder, passing and punting the Redskins to two NFL championships.
Yet Slingin’ Sammy’s life went way beyond football. His proudest sporting accomplishment was a hole-in-one he once scored in, of all places, Sweetwater, Texas. He spent his post-football career acting, starring in several movies, including “King of the Texas Rangers” and becoming close friends with Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers.
Maybe most impressive of all, Slingin’ Sammy signed every autograph request that fans sent to his house in Rotan, Texas, and there were plenty. He signed each one, Sam Baugh, a shorter moniker so as to be able to fulfill more autograph requests.
In the fourth quarter of his life, Sam Baugh signed plenty. He rarely left his ranch in Texas for anywhere, choosing instead to watch golf and play dominoes with anybody who stopped by, as Hall of Fame defensive lineman Bob Lilly sometimes did.
And anyone who played against Slingin’ Sammy, or simply watched him, always will remember the oversized XL hands that allowed him to grip the football in an unconventional way and throw it downfield like few ever have.
But know this. As big as Slingin’ Sammy’s hands were, his legacy looms even larger.