Stephen Michael Bagarus, the former pass-catching and running ace who wore a "OO" on his jersey when he played halfback with the Washington Redskins here in the mid-1940s, died of cancer Friday at his home in Gaithersburg. He was 62.
Mr. Bagarus, who became a Redskin in 1945, also played with the Los Angeles Rams football team and was signed by the Baltimore Bullets basketball team, which suspended him for failing to appear for a game.
In his first season with the Redskins in 1945, when the team won the Eastern championship, he set a local record by catching 35 passes, good for 623 yards and six touchdowns. The next year, he caught 31 passes for 438 yards and led his team in pass interceptions (four), kickoff returns (13 for 332 yards), and punt returns (18 for 192 yards).
Retired Washington Post Sports Editor Shirley Povich called him "the most feared ball carrier on the Redskins" and "the toast of Redskin fans in 1945-46" in a 1949 column announcing that Mr. Bagarus had just been put on the waiver list.
After Mr. Bagarus was traded to the Rams at the end of the 1946 season, he suffered a broken leg in the second game of the season and wore a cast for 17 weeks. Although doctors said he wouldn't play football again, he spent the remainder of the 1947 season with the Rams. However, his chief asset -- his "dazzling" speed -- was diminished by the broken leg and he was released.
The following year, he was picked up as a free agent by the Redskins. During preseason training, he suffered a pulled groin muscle from which he never fully recovered, and the club placed him on the waiver list in 1949.
A native of South Bend, Ind., he was named "All City" and "All State" in basketball, football and baseball. He attended the University of Notre Dame and earned football letters in 1939 and 1940 with teams that were beaten only by Iowa (twice), Southern California and Northwestern universities.
Drafted into the Army his junior year, he was playing on the side with the Pacific Coast League's San Diego Bombers when he caught the eye of George Preston Marshall, former owner of the Redskins.
Marshall signed the handsome and slender, six-foot, 175-pounder as a free agent and borrrowed him for several games. Mr. Bagarus played spectacularly, especially in exhibition games against the Packers and Bears in Baltimore. He was signed to a three-year personal service contract with Marshall in 1945.
For the last 30 years, Mr. Bagarus worked in automobile sales in this area. He was a new car salesman for King Pontiac in Gaithersburg when he retired in May for reasons of health.
His marriage to Nancy Bagarus ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Ann Merritt Bagarus of Gaithersburg, whom he married in 1947; a daughter by his first marriage, Mary Robin Bagarus of Germantown; two sons, Gary M. of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Ronald S. of Germantown; three brothers and three sisters, all of South Bend, and two grandchildren.