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Team Report
Letters from Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh and owner George Marshall reveal the Redskins' early struggles on -- and off -- the field

By Samu Qureshi and Valerie Grissom
Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hotel Roosevelt

Sixteenth St. at V and W

Washington, D.C.

Dearest Mona,

I have been laying in bed listening to the first game of the world series. It was a good game, but I had quite a difficult time keeping my eyes open.

The Redskins won Mon. nite but we received lots of injuries -- some of them quite serious. I hope some of the boys recover in time for the Giant game Sunday. "Turk" was relieved of being line coach -- he was replaced by Herman Ball. It was quite a popular move as far as the boys were concerned. They like Herman, but detest Turk.

I am getting awful tired and old for football -- seems I can't get rested. I suppose it's for young men, and you couldn't exactly call me a freshman at this time ...

Be sweet and remember I love you. Tell the boys I'll be awful glad to see them.

Sam

Sam is Sammy Baugh, the National Football League Hall of Famer and legendary Redskins quarterback from 1937 to 1952, who died in December at age 94. Baugh wrote the letter on Oct. 5, 1949, from his usual room during football season at the Hotel Roosevelt on 16th Street in Northwest Washington, to his wife, Edmonia, who was home at their ranch outside Rotan, Tex.

The Redskins were beginning a rough season, in the midst of a decades-long slide and facing the twilight of Baugh's momentous career. Ball, who replaced Albert Glen "Turk" Edwards, would see another promotion in a few short weeks -- he became head coach after volatile team owner George Preston Marshall dismissed Vice Admiral John E. "Billick" Whelchel after seven games. The Redskins concluded the 1949 season with a poor 4-7-1 record, a departure from the team's recent glorious past, in which Baugh led the franchise to five Eastern Division championships and two NFL championships in its first nine seasons in Washington (1937-1945).

The story of the early Redskins begins with Marshall, a businessman who inherited the two-store, Washington-based Palace Laundry from his father in 1919 and transformed it into a multimillion-dollar company of 57 stores. After establishing himself, Marshall bought an NFL franchise in 1932 and placed it in Boston, where the team played as the Braves before Marshall renamed the team the Redskins in 1933 and moved the team's home stadium from Boston's Braves Field to Fenway Park.

Marshall was a hands-on owner with an autocratic style, an instinct for showmanship and a penchant for frugality. Born in West Virginia, Marshall identified himself as a Southerner and was a segregationist. Letters and documents that survive from the Marshall era reveal a simpler time in professional football, when the NFL was struggling for viability, and convey how the Redskins players and coaches functioned under the thumb of a dominant owner.

Marshall paid his players only for league games, so he was interested in scheduling as many exhibition games as possible to market his team and generate revenue at the physical expense of his players. In addition to the regular league games, the team was scheduled to play several semipro teams each and every year. In those days, such teams as the Akron Awnings, St. Louis Gunners and Ironton (Ohio) Tanks drew large crowds for the chance to see NFL greats, as well as to support their often comparably talented local teams. On Sept. 13, 1934, Marshall sent the following telegram to Michael V. DiSalle, the future Toledo mayor and Ohio governor, regarding a possible game with a semipro Toledo team:

AS WE ALREADY HAVE THREE GAMES SCHEDULED FOR THAT WEEK COACH REFUSES TO PLAY ANOTHER GAME STOP AM SORRY AND THANK YOU FOR OFFER STOP MAYBE WE CAN GET TOGETHER AT LATER DATE=

GEORGE MARSHALL.

***

Marshall had attempted to coerce Redskins head coach Lone Star Dietz into playing four games in a one-week period. Dietz's refusal to play in Toledo was more than warranted, considering that the 1934 Redskins roster consisted of a 24 players (11 in the starting lineup, most of whom played the entire game on offense, defense and special teams, plus the reserve players). Moreover, at the time the sport was exceptionally brutal, with games often marked by dirty play, including kneeing, slugging and piling on. Equipment was minimal -- this was the era of the leatherheads, though helmets were not mandatory pursuant to NFL rules until 1943.

An Aug. 19, 1937, letter Redskins General Manager J.K. Espy wrote just before the team's first season in Washington, divulges the sums of money involved in a semipro game. (Marshall scheduled semipro games in cities near those with NFL franchises to cover travel expenses for league games). The letter further illustrates how games were scheduled in the 1930s. Espy's correspondence with LeRoy White in Terre Haute, Ind., states:

This is to advise that the Redskins would be interested in a proposition to play in Terre Haute sometime between November 14th and November 21st.

On those two dates we will be playing in Pittsburgh and Cleveland respectively and might very well be able to play some team in your city between the League games, providing, of course, that the terms are suitable.

If you can schedule a team of players who are eligible in the eyes of the National Football League, of which we are a member and whose rules we must adhere to, we will be willing to play you for a guarantee of $2500.00 with an option of 50% of the gross receipts after the federal taxes and park rental have been deducted.

***

Despite Marshall's attempts to promote his professional football team, Boston newspapers and sports fans paid little attention, devoting themselves instead to Major League Baseball and Ivy League football. Marshall's team lost money in each of the five seasons it played in Boston. In 1936, the Boston Redskins won the Eastern Division championship and were set to play the Green Bay Packers for the NFL championship (the 1933-1966 precursor to the Super Bowl). The Redskins had home-field advantage and were expected to play at Fenway Park, but Marshall struck back at the Boston fans and moved the game to the Polo Grounds in New York, setting the stage for the team's departure from Boston. He told reporters: "We'll make more in New York than in Boston. We certainly don't owe Boston much after the shabby treatment we've received. Imagine losing $20,000 with a championship team."

As Marshall's wife, former silent movie actress Corinne Griffith, tells it in her 1947 book "My Life With the Redskins," it was her idea to move the team to Washington. She relates the story of dining with her friend Damon Runyon, sportswriter and author of "Guys and Dolls," his wife, Patrice, and Marshall at a restaurant in New York in the fall of 1936, and explaining why the team would be welcomed in Washington: "You see, Damon, there are so many displaced citizens in Washington, from places such as Muleshoe, Texas; Ekalaka, Montana; and even Beverly Hills, California. Most of these are alone in Washington with nothing to do on Sunday afternoon other than sit in parks and feed the squirrels and pigeons. I am convinced that if the team should move to Washington, it would give these same an opportunity to expend some of their surplus energy."

NFL approval of the team's move to Washington came in February 1937. In the spring of 1937, Marshall recruited Texas Christian University quarterback Sammy Baugh. Marshall orchestrated Baugh's arrival in Washington later that summer; he insisted that Baugh dress the part of a cowboy to meet reporters, emphasizing the cowboy addition to his Indians. Nearly 25,000 fans attended the Redskins' opening game in Washington on Thursday night, Sept. 16, 1937, against the New York Giants at Griffith Stadium.

Baugh and the Redskins performed beautifully, creating a loyal following for the team. Known for his forward-passing game, Baugh completed a pass downfield to set up teammate Riley Smith for a field goal. Smith was the hero of the day with a second field goal and an interception that he ran back for a touchdown, resulting in a 13-3 victory over the Giants.

The Redskins' final game of the 1937 season also came against the Giants, but this time the Eastern Division title was on the line in New York. Baugh came through once again, along with halfback Cliff Battles, and led the team to a 49-14 victory that put the Redskins in contention for their first NFL title. The following week, in the 1937 championship game against the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field, an injured Baugh threw three touchdown passes for 78 yards, 55 yards and 35 yards to help beat the Bears, 28-21. Baugh led the Redskins to the NFL title game four more times: In 1940 and '43, they lost to the Bears; beat the Bears in 1942; and lost to the Cleveland Rams in 1945.

Baugh was exempted from service in World War II; however, the Redskins lost their future Hall of Fame coach Ray Flaherty, who joined the Navy after the Redskins' 1942 season. The Redskins sent 18 men to the armed services, some of whom did not return. Baugh divided his time during the 1944 season between Washington and his ranch in Texas, supplying the armed forces with beef. Baugh missed out on learning the team's new offense, the T-formation, but played in eight of 10 games that year.

Following the 1945 season, during which the team went 8-2, Baugh would see only one more winning season in his time as a Redskin, and the Redskins would not play for a championship again until 1972. In Baugh's remaining seven seasons on the team, 1946 through 1952, Marshall went through five head coaches, three of whom were fired or resigned in season.

Upon the team's return from training camp in Los Angeles (which was followed by a series of preseason exhibition games en route back to Washington) in 1948, Baugh wrote the following letter on Sept. 13:

Dearest Mona,

We arrived in Wash. 8:30 A.M. today, and you never saw such a crippled group get off a train. Hope everyone can get right by Sept. 26 when we open against Pitt.

Dick Todd is O.K. but he still has headaches if he moves too much. Hope he can play by the 26th.

The Touchdown Club gave the team a luncheon today at the Statler -- it was a nice affair and I hope we can reciprocate by playing some good ball here this year. We took quite a drubbing from Green Bay 43-0. Guess the Bears will do the same to us Sept. 19 in Baltimore.

It's nice to get back to Washington -- seems we have been riding a train for ages ...

***

Marshall demoted Albert Glen "Turk" Edwards from head coach to line coach following the 1948 season. For the head coach position, Marshall hired Vice Adm. John E. "Billick" Whelchel, a former winning Naval Academy coach who had been stationed in the Pacific during WWII. From 1946 to 1962, the Redskins held training camp at Occidental College in northeast Los Angeles, near Pasadena. In August 1949, Herman Ball, who was then an assistant coach, wrote to the Redskins' home office to report on the Admiral's progress during training camp in Los Angeles:

Hi, You All --

Camp is half over, so I'd better submit my half-time report.

So far it has been a good training period. We have had a lot of work -- plenty of it rough. In fact one day last week Big John Adams said to me "This has been the hardest day I ever had in any training camp". So, maybe they will have a breather when the games come along on Sunday ...

The Admiral is tough on the boys as far as rough work is concerned, but very considerate with them off the field. They all respect him, and I think will continue to do so. He gave them yesterday off, after a very hard scrimmage on Saturday. They also had Saturday nite and Sunday nite off to go to a movie or wherever they wanted to go. He added an extra hour on the curfew on Saturday nite. They are all grown men, and they like to be treated as such, and they all feel that he is treating them justly. Let's hope that the same spirit keeps up.

We've had wonderful weather to work in -- It was hot as h -- -- -- the first couple of days we were here, but has been very pleasant since. It gets so cool at nite that you have to wear a jacket most of the time, and the sleeping is out of this world -- blankets every nite!!! ...

Will see you all in the not too distant future --

Regards to the men and love to the girls --

Herman

***

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Marshall scheduled the team to play a series of preseason exhibition games along the train route back from Los Angeles after training camp. The majority of these games were played in the South, as Marshall cultivated a fan following with radio (and later, television) contracts in Southern markets. The Redskins were the only NFL team with a home base below the Mason-Dixon line until 1960, when Dallas was awarded the Cowboys franchise (with the exception of the Texans' one season in 1952), and Marshall considered the South his territory.

The following letter, dated Sept. 29, 1949, illustrates the modest financial situation of a pro-football star in the days before television contracts:

Dearest Mona,

I went down & paid Dr. Amundson $635.00 today. I gave a check on the Rotan Bank. I presume it won't bounce. ...

The Cardinals beat us 38-7. They really tore our line apart the 2nd half. It was 14-7 at half time, but we couldn't stop them after that. I completed 16 passes 1 for the T.D. but we were never in the game after the 1st half.

I looked at some Pontiac Station Wagons today -- they are awful nice. I can buy one for list price, but we'd have to sell our car at home. I'd like to trade ours in on a new one but I don't know what it would bring. They tell me I'd probably get more for it at home ...

***

Baugh mulled over the station wagon purchase into 1950. On "Sammy Baugh Day," Nov. 23, 1947, at Griffith Stadium, Washington's hero was presented with a station wagon to commemorate his importance to the Redskins and their fans. Baugh visited his sister in Philadelphia after the game and was returning to Washington late the same night when he veered off the road to avoid an oncoming vehicle. When the car's tires hit gravel on the side of the road, Baugh lost control and slid into a concrete bridge, destroying his new car.

In 1950, Baugh was preparing for his exit from professional football (he had three seasons remaining) and Marshall was planning for the future of the sport. That year, the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Redskins became the first two teams to have all of their games broadcast on regional network television, a medium that helped pro football's popularity and revenue increase exponentially. Another new NFL development in the 1950s was the emergence of a players' union. Marshall was the last club owner to hold out against the union, which was established in 1956. A packet of documents from 1951 saved by Redskins recruit John "Jack" Packo exemplifies what it was like for a mid-20th-century professional football hopeful before players' agents and negotiations.

In those days, the Redskins scouted players but also relied heavily on choosing their draft picks from football magazines, which featured skilled position players (quarterbacks and running backs). The Redskins used most of their top selections on these high-profile players and tended to shop for linemen after the draft. John Packo, a center from the University of Detroit, was not selected in the 30 rounds of the 1951 draft. Without reviewing game film or consulting university coaches, let alone actually seeing Packo play, Ball, who had become head coach, simply spoke with a Detroit alumnus who was on the coaching staff and had graduated 13 years earlier -- the great Redskins fullback Andy Farkas. Farkas apparently thought highly of Packo, both a fellow Toledo, Ohio, native and a Hungarian. A letter from Ball, dated March 27, 1951, reads:

I had quite a long talk with Andy Farkas concerning your possibilities as a professional football player. I would like to have you join our club and am in a position to offer you $5,000.00 for the 1951 season. If this is satisfactory please let me know at once and I will forward the contract to you.

The second letter in the series, dated April 10, 1951, exemplifies the ease with which powerful clubs could pick up players and implies that there was no room for negotiation. Ball wrote:

Dear John:

I was glad to receive your letter saying that you are interested in playing with us.

I am enclosing a contract for the 1951 season. Please sign all three copies in the space provided for player and return to me along with the questionnaires which I am also enclosing at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely

Herman Ball, Coach.

***

The innocence of this long-ago era is further displayed in a mimeographed form letter Redskins General Manager Richard McCann sent Packo on July 6, 1951. The letter includes a list of what to bring to the July 16 to Sept. 21, 1951, Redskins training camp at Occidental College:

Two suits, or one suit and a sport coat with slacks;

One pair of old slacks, or dungarees, and sweater or jacket;

One pair of dress shoes;

One pair of old shores [shoes], or loafers;

Four dress or convertible sports shirts;

A necktie or two;

Six changes of underwear;

Toilet articles;

Pajamas, robe and slippers if you desire.

The letter continues its patronizing tone:

The club has strict rules about wearing suit coats and ties while in public places such as hotel lobbies, railroad stations, airport terminals, and so forth. But around the training camp you may dress for comfort and most of the player (sic) wear a regulation Redskins' T-shirt, which will be issued to you, and old slacks. Sam Baugh, for instance, wears a T-shirt, dungarees and loafers in camp ...

Throughout your stay in California (about 40 days), you will have few occasions to dress up. These will be: dinner given by The Los Angeles Times for players participating in their great charity game; dinner given by Eagle Rock and Highland Park citizens ... And, of course, six Sundays if you are a church-goer.

Traveling on trains, the Redskins use private cars and you may dress for comfort once aboard the train. However, in hotels I once again remind you of the club's strict rules on coats and ties. The day of the turtle-neck is past. You're in the big leagues ...

Enclosed with the above letter was a small brochure, titled "The Redskins Twelfth Coast-to-Coast Training Trip, July 16 to September 21, 1951." Inside was an itinerary, which included picking up players in several cities: Pittsburgh; Chicago; Kansas City; Amarillo, Tex.; and Clovis, N.M., where Baugh boarded the train heading from Washington to Los Angeles. On the second page was a list of answers to frequently asked questions:

Clothes:

When boarding or leaving trains or buses, or while in hotel lobbies and dining rooms, your wearing apparel must include a necktie and a suit jacket or sport coat ...

***

Meals:

Special menus are prepared for group meals by the Redskins' dietician. There are no substitutes, and no seconds, for your stomach's sake.

***

Laundry:

You may charge your laundry, but you will be billed for it at the end of the trip and the charges deducted from your first pay envelope.

***

Phones at Occidental:

Outgoing Calls: They are to be made on pay phones available in the basement of Swan Hall.

Incoming Calls: They will be received at the phone booth in the patio of the Student Union Building. If you expect a call, stand by there. No personal calls may be received over phones in Swan Hall, or the dressing room.

***

Smoking:

The club has strict rules about smoking in or around the dressing room or practice field ...

Ash-trays are plentiful in your rooms. Be sure to use them ... not the floor. Remember: It's somebody's mother or wife who has to clean up.

***

A handwritten note on the side of an undated letter that Ball sent to the home office from training camp reveals Packo's fate. The note, dated Aug. 15, indicates that Packo was one of five players released. A letter from Ball back to the home office labeled "Friday AM," presumably written on the previous Friday, Aug. 10, 1951, reads:

The team so far appears to me to be a disappointment. I had hoped we would have a fair one, but it looks like we have a rinky-dink set of backs to play defense with. So you had better light all the candles ... and "enjoy the lull before the storm."

***

After the completion of training camp in 1951, Ball began his second season as head coach. Ball intimated that he expected trouble in the upcoming months in his training camp report to the home office. Ball's prediction was accurate -- Marshall replaced him three games into the 1951 season, promoting Ball's assistant coach, Dick Todd, to head coach for the remainder of the season. Todd was Baugh's best friend and teammate from 1938 through 1946. In the 1940s, Baugh and Todd traveled to training camp together -- Baugh drove his cattle from his ranch in to the Los Angeles stockyards, and Todd, a fellow Texan, accompanied Baugh on horseback.

Todd coached through the end of the 1951 season and agreed to be the head coach again in 1952. However, in fashion typical of this period, Marshall replaced Todd with Curly Lambeau before the end of the 1952 training camp.

Marshall scheduled six exhibition games (for which the players were not paid) that season, and when he added another, the players rebelled. Other NFL teams paid their players a per-game amount for exhibition games in addition to their regular season salaries, and the Redskins players decided together to demand a similar arrangement. However, when Baugh and two other players confronted Marshall in his office, the owner refused to meet with them, referencing his anti-union views, and the matter ended.

Before the NFL Players' Association came into existence, most players' attempts at salary increases failed. A round of letters written in 1953 between Ball, who by then was an assistant coach, and defensive back Dick Alban shows what happened to established players' pre-union attempts to negotiate better deals for themselves. The Redskins selected Alban in the ninth round of the 1952 draft. Ball wrote to Alban on June 2, 1953, before Alban's second season with the Redskins:

I agree with your statement that you played good football last year and will go along with you to the extent of granting you a $500.00 raise over last year, however, we cannot see our way clear to grant you both a raise and a bonus. If you are pressed for expense money for your wife during training camp we will advance you $250.00 on your contract to take care of her expenses during that period. Looking forward to receiving your signed contract, which I am enclosing, at a very early date.

***

Alban tried for a raise again the next year, and on May 17, 1954, Ball responded, again throwing him a bone:

In replying to your letter of May 10 regarding a contract for next year, I am enclosing a new contract granting you a substantial increase over your last year's salary. We realize that you have played good football and have missed a minimum number of minutes due to injuries or otherwise. I also feel the same as you that you could play five or six years longer without any difficulty whatsoever, however, an increase of $1,000.00, which you ask for, is a little steep for one year.

We will be able to advance you some money to cover your expenses while in training camp, however, we would like to keep this at a minimum amount as the requests this year are quite a few more than before. This advance can be worked out when we receive your signed contract.

Kindest regards.

Sincerely

Herman Ball

Assistant Coach

Ten days later, Alban wrote back to Ball:

Dear Herman:

I was rather disappointed when I received your letter granting me a $500.00 raise. You have always trusted me very well, and I appreciate what you have done for me, however, I know that I would play much better football for $7000.00 than I would for $6500.00, which is only natural. I think the object of a raise is to increase the players' desire to play harder and win harder. Taking into consideration my past performance, and my two years experience, I feel, as I think you will too, that I should have $7000.00.

My wife and I talked over the problem of an advance, and since we just purchased a home, we will need $500.00. We feel that we can meet all of our obligations for two months at $250.00 per month.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain,

Sincerely yours, Richard Alban

***

The 1950s and 1960s held only three seasons with winning records for the Redskins, partially because of Marshall's refusal to hire black players. The league had integrated in 1946, and after 1955, the Redskins were the only NFL team without a black player until the Kennedy administration forced Marshall to integrate the team for the 1962 season. Kennedy's Interior Department used its leverage as administrator of the National Capital Parks System, with which Marshall had just signed a 30-year lease on D.C. Stadium (built in 1961, renamed RFK Memorial Stadium in 1969). Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to invalidate Marshall's lease if he remained in violation of newly adopted regulations barring discriminatory hiring practices by Interior Department contractors. This was quite a blow to Marshall, who had been instrumental in getting the stadium built in accordance with Congress's District of Columbia Stadium Act of 1957, as an improvement upon the Redskins' home in the District, Griffith Stadium, which was constructed for baseball in 1911.

Marshall fought the government throughout the spring and summer of 1961. The public also got involved, voicing its opinions in the papers, and attending demonstrations and protests organized by such wide-ranging organizations as the American Nazi Party and the NAACP. Marshall, with his usual bluster, fanned the flames of the controversy, goading Udall and the administration in the press. Referring to President Kennedy, he said: "Yes, I'd like to debate that kid. I could handle him with words. I used to be able to handle his old man [Joseph Kennedy] in Boston." With television contracts at stake and other league owners worried about bad publicity, Marshall eventually compromised after a conversation with NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle late in the summer of 1961. The administration allowed one more season with an all-white team, and Marshall agreed to draft blacks for the 1962 season.

Marshall's authority was also being tested on other fronts. He and Corinne Griffith divorced in 1958, and Griffith returned to Bel Air, Calif. In post-divorce correspondence between Marshall and Griffith, the name of Harry Wismer appeared. Wismer was the original voice of the Redskins, commentating games for radio. At one point, he owned 25 percent of the franchise. Wismer told Marshall that his refusal to hire black players was bad for Wismer's investment in the team, and Wismer and Marshall's relationship ended in litigation. Wismer became a charter owner of an AFL team, the New York Titans (later renamed the Jets), after the AFL's founding in 1960, and he hired Marshall's darling, Sammy Baugh, for the head coach position. The AFL remained a thorn in the side of Marshall and other old school NFL owners until the leagues merged in 1970. Below, Marshall refers to the shareholder litigation with Wismer in a letter to his ex-wife, dated Jan. 21, 1961, just before Marshall's showdown with the Kennedy administration.

Dear Corinne:

... By this time you know Wismer is available to you for parties or anything you see fit. He is no longer connected with the National Football League or the Redskins. The suit has been dismissed so you can, therefore, forget about the question of Mr. Wismer calling on you to testify.

Everybody wonders why in the world I have to pay you any alimony knowing you are as well off as you are. It does seem ridiculous, but nevertheless that is the way you wanted it and that is the way you got it. I only hope I am able to complete the payments to your satisfaction.

In the meantime, best of luck.

Griffith responded angrily to Marshall's comment about Wismer. She wrote back to Marshall in a letter dated January 26, 1961, six days after John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

Dear George,

... I have always kept myself unspotted from any gossip because I have led as clean a life of anyone leading, and I am certain that you, above all people, know just how decent I am. So, don't say again I can do "anything with Wismer I see fit". I am not interested in Harry and Harry is not interested in me.

You are always letting your hate of Wismer ruin you. Hate always does. But Heaven knows there is no reason to hate me. When you insisted I marry you, I married you. When you insisted for years on a divorce, I divorced you. What more can you ask? And may I repeat, please get someone around you whose thinking is correct. With your ability and my right thinking you became a great success. Now you are surrounded with such degenerate, unprogressive thoughts that you are fast becoming a failure. Come on now, get your good thinking cap on and do the things you are capable of doing -- now!

And don't ever again accuse me of chasing with Wismer. To begin with I don't "chase". I am the old-fashioned type that believes in letting men chase me. Remember?

Best, Corinne

***

In 1963, the Professional Football Hall of Fame selected Marshall and Baugh as charter members. Marshall's accomplishments included innovative rule changes that produced more exciting play for spectators. Marshall advocated placing goal posts at the goal line in order to make field goals easier and result in higher-scoring games, and he suggested the rule that allowed for passes to be thrown from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, instead of requiring the passer to be at least five yards behind it. Marshall was also credited with advocating a two-division league with a championship game, as well as for being the first owner to have a band and halftime shows.

Later that year, Marshall suffered an incapacitating stroke, and management of the team was taken over by a group of caretakers led by Washington lawyer Edward Bennett Williams. George Preston Marshall quietly retired to his home in Georgetown. The following letter from the final years of the Marshall era displays a much-delayed sensitivity to the Washington Redskins' bigoted history. It is dated Jan. 12, 1966, and is from Joel Margolis, who was a producer of the Redskins halftime show and who helped organize the Redskinettes in 1962. His letter was written to Dan Endy of NFL Films.

Dear Mr. Endy:

Under separate cover I have shipped a tape of the Redskin Band ...

The paper attached to the spool will indicate the approximate location of our song "Hail to the Redskins." We have marked the several locations so that you may hear our number played in different tempos.

Please do not, repeat not, use the number "Dixie" in connection with The Redskins.

Cordially,

Joel Margolis

***

The Southern anthem "Dixie" and "Hail to the Redskins" were the standard numbers played at Redskins games from 1937 through the early 1960s. Although the original words to the team song, written by Corinne Griffith, in 1937, included the line "Fight for old D.C.," Marshall later changed the line to "Fight for old Dixie" to signify Marshall's personal feelings and, by extension, the team's southern identity. After Marshall's decline, the line was restored to its original version, but other Griffith lyrics were rewritten for political correctness: "Scalp 'um, swamp 'um, we will/Take 'um big score" was changed to "Run or pass and score/We want a lot more!", and "Read 'um, weep 'um, touchdown/We want heap more" was changed to "Beat 'em, swamp 'em, touchdown!/Let the points soar!"

Without Marshall's interference, the integrated team started to reverse its long slide, beginning with the 1969 season that followed Marshall's death on Aug. 9. That year, Williams persuaded Vince Lombardi to come out of retirement to coach the Redskins. Having acquired two black future Hall of Fame wide receivers, Bobby Mitchell (traded for in 1962) and Charley Taylor (drafted in 1964), together with the team's selection of unknown future phenomenon black running back Larry Brown in the 1969 draft, and led by quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, the Redskins ended up with their first winning season since 1955, and began their return to greatness.

A letter written on Lombardi's Redskins letterhead, dated March 7, 1969, shows the great motivator Lombardi preparing for his return to football, which was cut short by colon cancer, resulting in his death on Sept. 3, 1970, after just one season coaching the Washington Redskins:

I regret I cannot accept your invitation on behalf of Mrs. Alden Barber [the wife of the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America]. I am scheduled to attend the National Football League meetings in Palm Springs, at the same time.

My new address is -- as of March 13th -- 11013 Stanmore Drive, Potomac Falls, Maryland 20854. The telephone is not installed as yet, and when it is, I will send you the number.

Sincerely,

Vince

***

Valerie Grissom and Samu Qureshi are married and live in Bethesda. She is a freelance writer. He is a freelance writer and real estate agent. They can be reached at valeriegrissom@aol.com

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