Jay Schroeder liked playing baseball, but decided he couldn't make a career of it. Babe Laufenberg still loves fishing, but he realizes that you have to catch a whole lot of bass to pay the bills.
These two seemingly unconnected and inconsequential bits of information are, in fact, very much a part of the continuing saga known as The Quarterbacks of the Washington Redskins.
Schroeder, of course, is the star of the week, having replaced the injured Joe Theismann to lead the Redskins to a 23-21 victory over the New York Giants Monday night. With Theismann out for the season, Schroeder is No. 1. Laufenberg rejoined the Redskins after having been cut in the preseason, and now assumes the backup role.
Schroeder is an NFL quarterback, in part, because he couldn't hit a curve ball. Schroeder spent four summers playing in the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league organization after playing two years of football and baseball at UCLA. After the 1983 baseball season, he decided to give football a try, and was picked in the third round of the '84 draft by the Redskins.
In Schroeder's sophomore year, pro football people started taking notice.
"You don't spend a lot of time looking at sophomores," Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard said yesterday, "but he was destined to be a star. He was a noticeable athlete -- big, tall, blond with a bazooka."
The artillery piece is Schroeder's right arm, which was also his strength on the diamond. But, as Schroeder admits, a bat in his hands was not considered a lethal weapon. In four minor league seasons, Schroeder hit .234, .204, .218 and .206, as he was moved back and forth between the outfield and behind the plate.
"I didn't decide until after the '83 season," Schroeder said of his decision to leave baseball. "Too many position changes and I wasn't hitting like I thought I should."
The Blue Jays disagreed, sort of. They wanted to take the bat out of Schroeder's hands entirely and make him a pitcher, which is the way Dave Stieb came to major league stardom.
"We didn't think he could hit," said Pat Gillick, the Blue Jays' executive vice president for baseball. "The guy had a great arm, a Jesse Barfield type of arm. (Barfield is one of the best right fielders in the American League.)
"We thought he wasn't going to hit so we said let's give pitching a chance, but Jay wasn't of the mind to do that," said Gillick, who was a high school teammate of Beathard in El Segundo, Calif. "Schroeder's with the Redskins, (Danny) Ainge is with the (NBA Boston) Celtics . . . I signed (Bob) Bourne and (Clark) Gillies of the (NHL New York) Islanders when I was in Houston. We scout everybody."
Schroeder disagreed that pitching was an alternative.
"They thought I was blowing an opportunity," he said, "but I had been through too many changes."
What Schroeder had been through was life in the minor leagues, which is never cushy.
"Playing four years in the minor leagues had a lot to do with accelerating his maturity," Beathard said.
"You have to mature, you have to grow up," Schroeder said. "It helped me mature and helped me have a lot of respect for other things. In college you're pretty carefree and don't have a whole lot of worries. I was paying bills and having to support myself. It was a different feeling."
The grit that clung to Schroeder from all those tiny towns helped when he got to the Redskins.
"He came in not in awe of anybody," Beathard said of Schroeder. "He was directing veteran receivers in offseason drills. A lot of rookies are afraid to open their mouths. But Jay has a lot of presence. I mean, heck, he's so gosh darn big (6 feet 4, 215 pounds) and his arm is so incredible."
Laufenberg's arm has just about shed all of the rust that developed while he was fishing in Mexico with his brother Jeff and the family dentist. It was in a Mexican bar, after a tough day fighting fish, that Laufenberg saw Theismann go down. He realized immediately he might again be employed after a short stint with the San Diego Chargers ended when Dan Fouts recovered from an injury.
"Good things happen to me when I go fishin'," Laufenberg said with a smile yesterday. "I was fishing in the Sierras when San Diego called and I was fishing in Mexico when this all happened. Whenever I'm out of a job, I'm gonna go fishing and something will turn up."
But Laufenberg is hoping that fishing will be an activity limited to February through June, when he wouldn't be involved with playing football.
"The longer it went, the less confident I was," he said of getting a call. "But I figured that if I didn't have something lined up, I'd go to training camp somewhere. I didn't think my career was over, but maybe that this season was washed out."
The Redskins put receiver Mark McGrath on waivers yesterday, and if he clears, he can be activated as early as 4 p.m today. McGrath was on injured reserve, and is expected to be the fourth receiver following the release of Malcolm Barnwell. Joe Phillips, signed Wednesday, may be the odd man out in the roster move.
Center Rick Donnalley (fractured left hand) did not practice yesterday, although he said, "I could probably play if I had to" Sunday at Pittsburgh. Coach Joe Gibbs said Donnalley would be fitted with a bubble cast, which takes pressure off the injured hand, for practice today.
Donnalley's presence on the offensive line is more critical because tackle Joe Jacoby is at best "an outside shot" at playing, according to Gibbs. Jacoby tested his strained right knee on a side field yesterday but didn't participate in drills.
John Riggins, George Rogers and Keith Griffin worked roughly equal amounts at running back yesterday, and Gibbs said he would use all three, although he wouldn't say who was going to start.