Shirley Povich wrote about sports for The Washington Post for 75 years, until the day he died at 92--June 4, 1998. With the 20th century drawing to a close, a review of Povich's columns from the past seven decades provides a picture of the people and events that dominated the century of sports in America. With great pleasure, we'll present some of these columns, continuing today with Povich's column of Dec. 12, 1937, on the Washington Redskins' 28-21 victory over the Chicago Bears for the National Football League championship before 15,870 in attendance in Chicago.
CHICAGO, Dec. 12
Lift a paean of praise to Sammy Baugh. Pay him your tributes, sound your huzzahs. And shout his name loudly. For it was Slingin' Sammy Baugh, sweet Sammy from Sweetwater, Tex., who stood out there on brutally frozen Wrigley Field this afternoon and almost with each rise and fall of his long right arm brought to Washington the National League football championship.
There he stood, a marked man, and yet he could beat the Chicago Bears, the best defensive unit in professional football, with the power of his passes. Against Baugh, they prided themselves that they had a defense. But there was no defense for the deftness of those pitches he made today and there was no defense, furthermore, for the raw, naked courage of the tall boy from Texas.
For Sammy Baugh this afternoon was virtually a one-legged football player. Early in the second quarter, vicious Bears who knew that to top the Redskins they had to stop Baugh, all but paralyzed him with a wicked tackle early in the second quarter. It was with a hip wracked with pain and a left leg well-nigh useless that Sammy Baugh beat the Bears.
Bruised hip? Injured leg? Huh, those were trifles compared to what had happened to his pitching hand. Because there across the palm was a deep gash that cried for attention, but on the Redskins bench the trainer was not informed.
All three injuries Sammy Baugh received in the second quarter--bruised hip, banged-up leg and painfully cut throwing hand. And it was 15 playing minutes later that Slingin' Sammy spread panic and destruction among the Bears with three touchdown passes that lifted the Redskins from a 14-7 deficit into a 28-21 victory.
Disappointed in two previous East-West playoffs when they failed to win the National League title, the Bears were a vicious outfit today. From the opening whistle it was apparent that they were out to "get" Slingin' Sammy as the greatest guarantee of victory. In the second quarter they got him.
Back there passing, he was too clever for 'em, ducking their vicious rushes and getting rid of the ball before he was assaulted by such as the 258-pound George Musso, Bear guard, or the 210-pound Danny Fortmann, Bear tackle, or the 230-pound Joe Stydahar. Fortmann's running mate who came pouring through the line bent on dispatching the slim, near-frail youth from Texas who was whipping 'em with his passes.
Back there passing, though, he knew how to defend himself. With something of a disdain for the Bear's rushes, he neatly skipped out of harm's way. But once, in the second quarter, he attempted to run the ball. And a clever run it was, 10 yards through the middle of the Bears' line. But, stepping out of his favorite role, Baugh met up with grief.
Under the Heap
Borne to earth finally by a surging wave of Bears, Baugh was at the mercy of the beefy Chicagoans. He hit the frozen turf with four Bears atop him. Somewhere, somehow in the pile, somebody gave his leg an awful wrench. Baugh was the last to arise.
When he did, it was with a noticeable limp that he started back to the Redskins' backfield. Then, a stabbing pain in his hip forced him to call time out. From his right hand blood was dripping profusely. He said he was all right.
And so it was that a crippled Sammy Baugh stayed in the game to throw three touchdown passes in the next period, to continue to sling his spiraling messages of grief into the Bears' secondary defense in the fourth quarter and complete a pitching masterpiece with 17 completions in 34 attempts, the greatest number of pass completions in the history of a National League Football game.
Coldest in Life
But that ain't all. There was Slingin' Sammy out there in the sub-freezing temperature of Chicago, far, far from the warm climes of his native Texas. Only three weeks before, he had seen snow for the first time in his life. Today he was colder than he ever had been in all his 23 years. Stiffened fingers and all, he could complete 17 passes.
And he was operating, too, for the first time in his life, in rubber-soled basketball shoes, not the conventional cleats in which he had been reared. On the frost-coated field, cleats were impossible, rubber-shod footwear afforded only a precarious footing at best. But it was with a fine disregard for all of these handicaps that Slingin' Sammy went to work.
How well he did his work is pretty evident. When they call the roll of football heroes, the name of Samuel Adrian Baugh will be hovering near the top.
1937 NFL Championship Game
Washington 28, Chicago Bears 21
December 12, 1937, at Chicago
Washington 7 0 21 0 -- 28
Chicago 14 0 7 0 -- 21
Was -- Battles 7 run (R. Smith kick)
ChiB -- Manders 10 run (Manders kick)
ChiB -- Manders 37 pass from Masterson (Manders kick)
Was -- Millner 55 pass from Baugh (R. Smith kick)
ChiB -- Manske 4 pass from Masterson (Manders kick)
Was -- Millner 78 pass from Baugh (R. Smith kick)
Was -- Justice 35 pass from Baugh (R. Smith kick)