A Local Life: George E. Catloth, 91

George E. Catloth, 91, was sports lover and Redskins' scorekeeper for 61 years

George E. Catloth was a batboy for the Washington Senators in the 1930s. He later operated the Redskins' scoreboard for 61 years.
George E. Catloth was a batboy for the Washington Senators in the 1930s. He later operated the Redskins' scoreboard for 61 years. (Courtesy Of Catloth Family)
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By Timothy R. Smith
Sunday, August 15, 2010

It was an unwanted present. A day before his 22nd birthday, George E. Catloth, the scoreboard operator for the Washington Redskins, saw his beloved hometown team historically dismantled.

On Dec. 8, 1940, the Chicago Bears played the Redskins in the National Football League championship game at Griffith Stadium, where Mr. Catloth slid numbered placards in trays for all spectators to see. Back then, football games were usually low-scoring affairs.

After the Redskins had beaten Chicago three weeks earlier, Washington owner George Preston Marshall rashly called the Bears "quitters" and "a bunch of crybabies."

Chicago had a new formation for the championship game and was heavily favored. The Bears scored in the first minute, and the touchdowns kept coming: runs, passes, double reverses, interception returns -- 11 touchdowns in all. Mr. Catloth almost lost track of the score.

Early in the game, Redskins wide receiver Charlie Malone dropped a sure touchdown pass by quarterback Sammy Baugh, and Washington never came close to scoring again.

By the game's end, the Bears won 73-0, the most lopsided victory in professional football history. After the game, Baugh was asked whether Malone's dropped touchdown pass would have made a difference.

"Sure," he said. "The final score would have been 73-7."

On Nov. 27, 1966, Mr. Catloth had another busy day when the Redskins defeated the New York Giants, 72-41, in the highest scoring game in NFL history. Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen threw three touchdown passes as several NFL records were set, including the most points scored by a team in a regular season game and the most combined points, 113.

When Mr. Catloth started as the Redskins' first scoreboard operator in 1937, he kept track of the scores manually. At Griffith Stadium, he worked above the bleachers in a dark room among the stadium's steel girders. He had a small window to look through. From his perch, he watched a man on the sideline who would use hand signals to tell him where the ball was.

When D.C. Stadium -- later renamed Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium -- opened in 1961, the engineers forgot to install a window for Mr. Catloth. Using a headset to talk with his man on the field, he posted scores without seeing the game.

By the time Mr. Catloth retired in 1998, after 61 years, he was operating a computer at the present-day FedEx Field.

Mr. Catloth died July 19 at age 91 of complications from diabetes at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham. For many years, his son and grandson, George Catloth Jr. and George Catloth III, joined him as scorekeepers. But his son left within two years of his father's retirement.

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