ROCHESTER, N.Y (WROC) — Many stars have passed through on their way to fame and success in a Rochester Red Wings uniform. Cal Ripken Jr. famously won International League Rookie of the Year with the Red Wings in 1981. All-Stars like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, spent time with the Wings, too.
But one NFL legend, one who revolutionized the forward pass — now the centerpiece of the professional game today — had a brief stint with the Rochester Red Wings.
In an era when most games were run plays, Baugh’s incredible arm popularized the forward pass. While most of his statistics would pale in comparison to today’s quarterbacking numbers, he was the premiere thrower of his day. His 1947 campaign — which earned him “Player of the Year” honors — which boasted an incredible line of 2,928 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions (according to Pro Football Reference) was his signature year.
His football prowess extended beyond passing the football. He set records as a quarterback, punter, and a defensive back. A personal favorite stat: in a game against the Detriot Lions he threw four touchdowns, and intercepted four passes as a defensive back.
While that versatility made his an all time football player… It did not extend to professional baseball.
He signed with the Redskins in 1937 (for $8,000), and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals shortly after.
Baugh actually played baseball (along with football, of course, and basketball) at Texas Christian University. There he played third base, and it was there that he gained his famous nickname, “Slingin’ Sammy.”
He never made it to the major leagues for baseball, and instead spent his time in minor league farm teams. His first stop was with the Columbus Red Birds, playing shortstop.
At the age of 24, he played 16 games for the Red Birds. He posted a .220 batting average, and boasted a .928 fielding percentage.
There, he was moved to Rochester Red Wings, St. Louis’s other farm club. His hitting dropped playing for the Red Wings, hitting .183, but he did manage to hit a home run in 37 games with Rochester. His fielding percentage also improved to .943.
According to Pro Football Researchers, Baugh was unhappy with his limited playing time, playing behind future perennial All-Star Marty Marion. After that, he decided to just focus on football.
It seemed to work out for Baugh, and Rochester owns a small piece of this legend’s history.