Friday, December 19, 2008

"Slingin' Sammy" Baugh Passes Away

TCU football legend Sam Baugh, nicknamed "Slingin' Sammy," died Wednesday, Dec. 17, at the age of 94 at Fisher County Hospital in Rotan, Texas.

"Sam was the greatest passer, punter, and signal caller that ever played the game," said National Football Foundation Historian and celebrated author Dan Jenkins. "Other than that, he didn't do much."

A member of the first class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, Baugh remained the last living person for more than a decade of a group that included George Gipp, Red Grange, Chic Harley, Pudge Heffelfinger, Nile Kinnick, Elmer Layden, Bronko Nagurski, Ernie Nevers, Jim Thrope and coaches Walter Camp, Knute Rockne, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner and Fielding Yost. Alabama's Don Hutson, the most recent member of the class to depart, died in 1997. Also a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was the last surviving member of that inaugural class.

"Sammy Baugh was a wonderful gentlemen and a national treasure. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and our friends at TCU," said National Football Foundation President & CEO Steve J. Hatchell. "Sam created many great memories for college football fans, developing a following from coast to coast. We take great pride in preserving his legacy at the College Football Hall of Fame for future generations to enjoy."

A two-time All-American who starred at halfback for the Horned Frogs from 1934-1936, Baugh played golf and worked his cattle herd until he was 92 and his health started deteriorating two to three years ago.

Born March 17, 1914 in Temple, Texas, he was the first of the great glamour players to give tremendous impetus to the modern passing game, and he led the nation as a junior and senior in passing while throwing 587 career passes in his three varsity seasons for 39 touchdowns and nearly two miles in yardage. In an era when 10 passes in a game was considered extravagant, Baugh threw as many as 40 passes in some games.

Baugh was also an excellent punter. During a 3-2 TCU victory over LSU in the Sugar Bowl, Baugh punted 14 times for a 48-yard average, placing many kicks inside the Tiger five-yard line. The victory over LSU capped a 12-1 season and the first of two national titles in a four-year period of TCU.

Baugh led Texas Christian to a berth in the inaugural Cotton Bowl on New Years Day in 1937, defeating Marquette 16-6 and rounding out a 9-2-2 season for the Frogs.

Baugh presided over a golden era of TCU football. The Horned Frogs' 29 victories from 1933-35 and 1934-36 trail only the 2005-07 period (30) for the most wins in a three-year stretch at TCU.

As a professional with the Washington Redskins, he played on five division and two league championship teams. As a passer he led the league six times and still holds many NFL passing records. In addition to being a great passer and punter, Baugh was also a superior defensive player as he led the NFL in interceptions in 1943. Baugh played with the Redskins through 1952. He would later go on to become the first coach of the New York Jets then known as the New York Titans.

In 2007, the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility was dedicated at TCU.

"Sam Baugh will always remain an integral part of TCU," Horned Frog athletics director Danny Morrison said. "His accomplishments have left an undeniable impact on our football program and the sport in general.

"TCU is extremely fortunate and honored to call Sam Baugh one of its own. Having his name on our indoor practice facility was just another way to honor his legacy. He will forever be known as one of the greatest Horned Frogs."

Baugh had his high school, collegiate and professional jersey numbers retired by Sweetwater (21), TCU (45) and the Redskins (33).