One of the benefits Eddie LeBaron gets from being short is that he's one of the last guys it rains on.
Now that he has returned to football as general manager of the Atlanta Falcons he is casting an envious eye at all the snow on the eastern side of the country.
"I have a grape ranch with my dad in California and there has been n o water recently," LeBaron explained Wednesday. "If we do not get some rain or snow out there soon, it could become very critical."
As the administrator committed to making the Falcons a source of pride to Billy Carter, who jested here Saturday that he did not regard them as of true National Football League caliber. LeBaron can appreciate what is waiting for him in Atlanta, quarterbacks Steve Bartkowski and Scott Hunter.
"That's a nice thought," LeBaron said, having solid performers at the position he used to play for the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
The Falcons have had only two winning seasons in 11 years, with a record of 50 victories, 100 defeats, and fourties. They were 4-10 in 1976 for a third-place finish in the NFC West.
LeBaron, 47, is Atlanta's fifth general manager and he was asked why he gave up a successful career in law in Nevada for the risks of pro football, after 13 years away.
"Everything in life is a gamble," he said. "I gave it a lot of thought because I had a feeling that I wanted to get back in the game. All of a sudden it hit me that this is what I wanted to do in life.
"I had kept up with the game. I did the game telecasts for a while. I had helped out in the Cowboys' training camp. I've known (owner) Rankin Smith since Norb hecker (another former Redskin) was the first coach and I came to Atlanta to help quarterback Randy Johnson.
"I worked with the Falcons and helped baby-sit Tommy Nobis until he was signed during the war between the NFL and AFL."
LeBaron said Leeman Bennett, who handles receivers for the Los Angeles Rams and calls signals for the quarterbacks, is the leading contender to become coach of the Falcons.
Dan Reeves, coach of the Dallas quarterbacks and receivers, removed himself from consideration yesterday.
Reeves was quoted in Dallas as saying, "I was made an offer; I turned it down."
LeBaron was the embodiment of the cliche, "a coach on the field." He enrolled at what was then College of the Pacific at the age of 16 and played tailback as a freshman under Amos Alonzo Stagg, then 86 years old.
One day in practice, as a junior, operating the T-formation LeBaron could not make an off-tackle slant by the fullback work because the defensive ends kept reading the play. So the quarterback put the ball in the fullback's stomach until the end reacted, then quickly pulled back the ball and pitched it out to a trailing halfback on a sweep.
The play worked so well that it was incorporated into the COP offense by new coach Larry Slemering and later became the basis of coach Bobby Dodd's so-called "belly series" at Georgia Tech.
When Siemering joined the Redskins as an assistant coach, LeBaron put in the whole system and Jo Kuharich had Lebaron expand it when Kuharich succeded Curly Lambeau as head coach.
Yet, for all heady quarterbacking and hidden-ball finesse, when LeBaron left the Redskins in a trade with Dallas for defensive tackle Ray Krouse, LeBaron was not permitted to call signals in Tom Landry's complicated, offenses. In fact, he alternated on every play with Don Meredith.
He had a standby joke of his own. When someone would ask how much more effective the might have been had he been taller, he would say, "I don't know; I've never been taller."
Critics said he could not see to throw over onrushing big defensive linemen, but he made boobs out of them with his fakes and pointed out that he had a higher release on his passes than any of the other quarterbacks because he threw with his arm fully extended above his head.
He told a story on himself about running out of the pocket and trying to straight-arm massive defensive end Len Ford, only to have his fingers go through Ford's mask and get bitten.
Gene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb would get applause for helping LeBaron to his feet after a knockdown, but LeBaron disclosed that doing so the defensive tackle squeezed his throwing hand until it almost went numb.
LeBaron produced Washington's first winning record, 8-4, in 10 years in 1955, and the last until Vince Lombardi and the George Allen came here.
Variously reported to be from 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10, and from 160 to 180 pounds, he was thought to be too small.
The Redskins did not draft him until the 10th round. The gags persisted about his lack of height.
The biggest embarrassment come after LeBaron led the Redskins to a 27-24 upset of the Baltmore Colts. As he trotted toward the dressing room, a happy fan darted from the stands, bumped into leBaron and knocked him so cold he had to be carried from the field.
LeBaron led the league in passing in 1958, when the Redskins finished fourth with 4-7 record and he did not do so by merely dumply off short passes and averaged 10.6 yards a completion. As a comparison, James harris of the Rams averaged 9.24 yards in the NFC last season and Ken Stabler 9.41 with the Oakland Raiders.
LeBaron averaged 41.6 yards punting in 1955 and finished fourth among the leaders, ahead of premier kicker Horace Gillom of Cleveland.
Nor was LeBaron afraid of defying coach Lambeau and owner Marshall by jumping to the Canadian Football League in 1954 for a $26,500 salary. The Redskins reportedly were paying him $10,000.
He rejoined the Redskins after Canada as he rejoined them after signing as a rookie and then going into combat in Korea before ever playing. He was awarded a bronze Star and two Purple Hearts after suffering shrapnel wounds of the calf and shoulder.