LUBBOCK, Texas - Slingin' Sammy Baugh, 94, a three-way threat who revolutionized the use of the forward pass while a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Washington Redskins, died last night.
Mr. Baugh, who had numerous health problems, died at Fisher County Hospital, his son David said. He said his father had battled Alzheimer's disease and dementia for several years and recently had been ill with kidney problems, low blood pressure, and double pneumonia.
Mr. Baugh was the last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural class of 1963. He was also one of four quarterbacks chosen for the Hall of Fame's 75th-anniversary team, along with Otto Graham, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.
After starring at Texas Christian, "Slingin' Sammy" played with the Redskins from 1937 to 1952, leading them to the NFL title in his rookie season and again in 1942.
Mr. Baugh was universally regarded as the best all-around player in an era when versatility was essential. In 1943, he led the league in passing, punting, and interceptions as a defender. In one game, he threw four passes for touchdowns and intercepted four. He threw six touchdowns passes in a game twice. His 51.4-yard punting average in 1940 remains the NFL record.
"There's nobody any better than Sam Baugh was in pro football," Don Maynard, a fellow West Texas Hall of Famer who played for Baugh during Baugh's two years as coach of the AFL's New York Titans, said in a 2002 interview. "When I see somebody picking the greatest player around, to me, if they didn't go both ways, they don't really deserve to be nominated. I always ask, 'Well, how'd he do on defense? How was his punting?' "
When Mr. Baugh entered the NFL, the forward pass was often reserved for desperate situations, but he turned it into a regular feature. As a rookie, he completed a record 81 passes (about seven a game) and led the league with 1,127 yards. By contrast, only six quarterbacks averaged three completions a game that year. He led the league in passing six times.
Mr. Baugh holds Redskins records for career touchdown passes (187) and completion percentage in a season (70.3). His 31 interceptions on defense are third on the team's career list.
"He was amazing, just tremendously accurate," Eddie LeBaron, who took over as Washington's quarterback in Baugh's last season, said in a 2002 interview. "He could always find a way to throw it off-balance. I've seen him throw the ball overarm, sidearm and underarm and complete them."
Mr. Baugh guided the Redskins to five title games. His No. 33 is the only jersey Washington has retired.