Becomes Redskins First Round Draft Pick
Selected by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the 1937 college football draft, Baugh felt he would warm the bench. There were no passing quarterbacks in pro football and he doubted any team would take a chance with him. When baseball scout, Rogers Hornsby, came calling, Baugh signed on to play third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals changed him to shortstop and sent him to their minor league franchise in Columbus, Ohio. Subsequently, the Cards sent Baugh to their Rochester, New York farm team where he played shortstop behind Marty Marion. Marion became a Cardinal regular while Baugh looked at changing sports.
Baugh called Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and told him he decided to try pro ball for one year. The Redskins had moved from Boston to Washington in 1937 and sought novel ways to recruit new fans. Marshall thought it was a great gimmick to bring a Texas cowboy quarterback to play in the nation's capital so he gave Baugh a shot. Those were the days of leather cap helmets that offered little protection. It was not until the John T. Riddell Company, researching using plastics for army helmets, developed a prototype for football players that evolved into standard headgear in the 1940s.
Marshall paid Baugh $8,000, but he got his money's worth. After practicing for only a week with the Redskins, he led the team to a 13-3 victory over the powerhouse New York Giants. In their inaugural season in Washington, Baugh led the Redskins to a National Football League (NFL) championship over the heavily favored Bears at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Each Bears player in the championship game received $122.78.
Baugh played a full sixty minutes of football, seeing action both as an offensive quarterback and defensive back. His professional football record for best career punting average (41.1 yards) and best single season punting average (51.4 yards in 1940) remain unbroken today. His pass completion average of 70.3% stood from 1945 until 1982. In 1943, he became the only NFL player to lead the league in passing, punting and interceptions.
The Washington Redskins was Baugh's only professional team. He played in the nation's capital from 1937 until 1952. Baugh was selected as an NFL All-Pro in his rookie year, 1937, and in five later years: 1940, 1943, 1945, 1947 and 1949.
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