St. Louis Cardinals History: Sammy Baugh Signed to Play Short
Sammy Baugh made his name in the NFL, where he became a Hall of Fame quarterback with the Redskins. Before then, he played a year of baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
In 1937, Sammy Baugh already made a name for himself as a rookie with the Washington Redskins. At a time when throwing the football was starting to become a real part of the offensive strategy of the game, Baugh led the league in completions, attempts, yards, and touchdown percentage. He was at the forefront of the throwing quarterback, someone who helped change the game.
However, Baugh was not just a football player. He attracted the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals, who, on this day in 1938, inked the Redskins quarterback to a contract. While one would have expected that a quarterback would have been signed to pitch, the Cardinals instead intended to play Baugh at short.
Baugh started Spring Training with the Cardinals, but was eventually sent to the minors. His professional career began as a backup in Columbus, where he produced a .220 batting average. Of his 13 hits, Baugh hit two doubles. Despite playing in just 16 games, he was promoted to Rochester, where he backed up Marty Marion. Here, he had just a .183 batting average in 37 games, but he did hit a triple and a home run. There was a bit of talent there.
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Baugh actually had his first baseball game in an unconventional way. Back in 1936, while he was at Texas Christian University, he played in the Denver Post Tournament, a top semi-pro competition that began in the 1920’s. By the late 1930’s, players from the Negro Leagues were participating, and dominating. Baugh’s team that year got to face, and be embarrassed by, the great Satchel Paige.
However, that would be Baugh’s last year in professional baseball. After the season, he returned to the Redskins, where he again led the league in passing yards per game. While he backed up for a couple of years, Baugh became the unquestioned starter in Washington in 1940, setting his eventual Hall of Fame career in motion.
While Baugh certainly made the right choice, one has to wonder if he would have continued with the Cardinals had he been given more of a chance. Marion became a future star, making eight All Star Games and winning the 1944 MVP award. In Columbus, he played behind Pat Ankenman, who had a 14 year professional career. Chances are, Baugh would not have been a two sport star, but it would have been interesting to see him with more of a chance.
Sammy Baugh may be remembered as a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he spent one year in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He made the right choice by sticking with the NFL.