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80 Years on the Warpath: The Sammy Baugh Era 1937-1952

After not receiving very much support in Boston, George Preston Marshall decided that in 1937, the Redskins would move to Washington DC. That off-season the Redskins would draft a player that would forever change the franchise; with the 6th pick in the first round they selected Samuel Adrian "Slingin’ Sammy" Baugh. Baugh came to the Redskins after a short, unsuccessful stint with the St. Louis Cardinals farm team in baseball, signing a one year contract with the Redskins for $8000, which at that point made him the highest paid player on the team.

On September 16, 1937, the Redskins made their debut in DC, beating the New York Giants 13-3 in front of over 24,000 fans at Griffith Stadium. The team, led by Cliff Battles (874 yards rushing, 6 td’s) would go on to finish the season with an 8-3 record winning the East division, and going on to play in the NFL Championship game against the Chicago Bears. The 1937 Championship game was a game that was close, but the Redskins pulled out the victory 28-21, behind the 352 yards passing by Baugh, giving them their first Championship as a franchise in just their first year playing in the nation’s capital.

The Redskins would come out in 1938 with a new marching band and a new fight song ‘Hail to the Redskins’ which was written by Corrine Griffith (Marshall’s wife). The team made a valiant effort towards winning their second straight title but fell short, losing to the Giants 36-0 in the season finale’ and finishing second in the East division with a 6-3-2 record. In 1939 the same fate would fall on the ‘Skins as they fell to the Giants again on the last game of the year 9-7, they finished 8-2-1.

The Redskins were poised to get to the Championship in 1940 and did so after beating the Philadelphia Eagles, finishing the season with a 9-2 record they claimed the Eastern division and would move on to eventually face the Chicago Bears again in the title game. The chance of getting a second NFL title was quickly thwarted as the Redskins would go on to suffer the worst defeat in the history of the NFL, 73-0. The Bears would end up with 501 total yards on offense, which included 382 yards rushing and 8 interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns.

After getting off to a good start in 1941 (5-1), the Redskins would lose 4 of their last five games and finish 6-5. The last game of the season, a game in which the Redskins won over the Eagles, was played on December 7, 1941, the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked. The 1942 Redskins team was perhaps the best of that era, after a few disappointing seasons; the Redskins finished 10-1 that year behind 1524 yards passing and 16 touchdowns that Sammy Baugh put up, it should also be noted that Sammy had 5 interceptions that year as well as a defensive back. The Redskins would enter the Championship game looking for revenge as they faced the ‘Monsters of the Midway’ (Chicago) once again, and they would get it as they shut down the Bears offense completely and went on to win 13-7. Redskins fans charged the field and tore down the goal posts at Griffith stadium in celebration of their second title in five years. Shortly after the game, Coach Ray Flaherty departed for service in the Navy.

In 1943 under new head coach Dutch Bergman, the Redskins made their way back to the Championship game behind Baugh’s 1754 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. However, repeating as champs was not in the cards as the Bears once again spoiled all hopes in a 41-21 loss. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was escorted out of the stadium that day after an altercation with Bears President, Ralph Brizzolara, who accused Marshall of stealing signals. 1945 was another season in which the Redskins looked poised to win a title, but they fell short losing in the title game once again, this time to the Cleveland Rams, a heartbreaker, 15-14 after two field goal attempts hit the goal post.

After nine straight winning seasons in Washington, the Redskins would fall on tough times from 1946-1952 as they had a combined record of 32-49-3 in those years and only had one winning season in that time frame. After four coaching changes in five years, the Redskins hired Green Bay legend Curly Lambeau to coach the team in 1952 hoping he would turn things around. The Redskins would finish that year at 4-8 and Sammy Baugh would go on to retire following the season, ending an era of Redskins football in which the team went 102-75-8, won 6 Eastern Division titles and won 2 NFL titles.

Follow 80 Years on the Warpath
The Uniforms
The Boston Years (1932-36)