The original Slingin’ Sammy
Sammy Baugh died this week at the age of 94. Not too many NFL stars left from the 1940s. I talked to Baugh once; called him down in Rotan, Texas, after the Big 12 formed, just to ask him about the demise of the Southwest Conference, a league he helped put on the map with his glory days at TCU. Seemed like a nice enough fellow.
Anyway, I’ve received three really interesting dispatches from readers who had thoughts about Baugh. Definitely worth sharing. They’re from different perspectives; one played for Baugh at OSU in 1962, when he was a Cowboy assistant coach. One interviewed Baugh in his later days. And one was a fan who never met the man we call Slingin’ Sammy.
The first tribute comes from my friend Don Brewington, who was a Shawnee High School star in the 1950s, went to OU to play football and then transferred to OSU, where in 1962 he was a receiver, playing for an assistant coach named Sammy Baugh.
“Just read where Sammy Baugh passed away yesterday. He was not only a super football player but a class gentleman as well.
“In 1962 Baugh was hired to help our offense at OSU, and being a wide receiver I had the opportunity to receive passes from him in practice. He was in his 50s then but still possessed a dead accurate passing arm. He would tell me to run a sideline pass at 10 yards out, and after running the route the ball from Baugh was right in my hands and softly as well.
“Before practice one day, I was walking across the basketball floor and saw Baugh shooting h-o-r-s-e with some of OSU’s better shooters. He beat the best shooter we had on the team. Never seen anything like it.
“On a personal touch, we had just got beaten by KU in football 34-17 in Stillwater. We had led for a half 17-7 and I had caught a TD pass, having a great day so far. Then the half started and Gale Sayers after the first play ran a 90-yard dazzler for a TD. Now the score is 17-14. Baugh had put in some routes that KU could not cover and had no clue how to, either. It is 3rd-and-7; Mike Miller threw a perfect pass to me downfield, the DB covering me fell down and all of a sudden I dropped the ball. Then Kansas went on and controlled game.
“I felt terrible after the game, feeling like I had by myself cost us the football game. As I sat in my locker after the game really feeling badly about the loss and particularly my dropped TD pass, Sammy Baugh comes by my locker and sits by me and says, ‘Hell, son, I have seen a lot better receivers than you drop passes in my lifetime. Shake it off. You had a good game.’ Never forgot what his words meant to me and never did drop another pass, either.
“Wonderful man who had all of his priorities in place all of his life. It was a blessing to have had an association with him and he had a big impact on me as well.”
OK, another tribute. This from my pal Jeremy Cowen, who once wrote sports for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and now is in PR for the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
“I saw where Sammy Baugh died — damned shame. I’m glad I got to do a long sitdown one-on-one interview with him a few years ago. I’ll always remember that. Real good guy.
“Baugh was a hoot. I’ll never forget I asked him if he ever got many visitors out there. His response: ‘Yeah, oh, I guess, here and there. Had a couple in over here last weekend. Came in to talk to me and take some pictures. They flew in from New York, I think it was. Had a guy who plays football now with the guy taking the photos. Big tall feller, real nice, real polite type — guy I’m going to have to keep an eye on. His name was … Pat … Pet … … Peyton!! Yeah, that’s it, a young feller by the name of Peyton Manning, I think it was!’
My mouth about hit the floor when he said that so non-chalantly. Just for reference, it was Sports Illustrated doing the photo thing: they were doing their 1999 NFL preview and were matching up-and-comers of the present with the old-time greats in a photo essay or something. I didn’t find all that info out, of course, until I picked up my Sports Illustrated a couple of weeks later, and there was a photo of Peyton with Baugh at Baugh’s house! He didn’t mention exactly what they were there for — he was just so non-chalant about the whole thing! Great guy, don’t make ‘em like him anymore.”
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