Thursday, December 24, 2009

Keith's Key Kard Korner: January 2010

The 1952 Bowman Large #30 Slingin’ Sammy Baugh

Sammy Baugh’s 1952 Bowman football card represents his sport card “Swan Song” as the last card issued during the Washington Redskins quarterback’s playing days (1937-1952). The card, produced at the Bowman Gum Corporation in Philadelphia, produced a portrait that displays fantastically. The background’s hues mimic that of rainier cherry skin as the background’s orange and yellow tones transition through a brilliant range of hues.

The absence of a facemask in 1950s professional football allowed observers to have a good look at helmeted players faces. The card’s Native American logo depiction was more functionally important as a team identifier because it would be another twenty years before the Redskins placed the Native American logo on their helmet. Bowman makes use of a pennant-style namebox. The artistry, color, and design of the 1952 Bowman football cards have made them one of the most popular and desirable cards among any sport.

Not only do they not make cards like this anymore, they don’t make players like this anymore either. “Slingin’ Sam” – a name he earned not while playing football but while playing third base for the TCU baseball team – played quarterback, punter, and defensive back in the NFL. In fact, in 1943 he led the league in passing, punting, and interceptions. In one game against the Lions, Baugh threw for four touchdown passes and notched four interceptions in perhaps his greatest single-game performance ever. On another occasion, Baugh suffered a concussion while tackling Bears QB Sid Luckman. Can you imagine Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick putting QB Tom Brady on defense to blitz Donovan McNabb?

Baugh is worth celebrating because he was an integral part of forward pass development. He made the forward pass a formidable weapon rather than a tool of last resort. In the 1940s NFL, that was not so easy. The ball was rounder at the ends and fatter in the middle then, making it harder to throw. Resultantly, Baugh was not able to throw for a Brady-esque number of touchdowns.

Otherwise, where has this early football innovator made news or pop culture reference lately and how is he is remembered? First of all, with Jay-Z in a rap video. Yes, Baugh had the King Of Hip-Hop harkening back to hallowed antiquity. Earlier this decade, Mista S-Dot-Carter paid homage to Sammy Baugh by sporting Baugh’s maroon #33 Mitchell & Ness throwback jersey in his “Girls, Girls, Girls” video. A fan of both Jay-Z and early football myself, this act is what showed me that Jay-Z finally won the longtime beef with Nas convincingly.

Coincidentally, Baugh passed away exactly one year ago today from the time I write this column, and his passing was reported through all major sports media outlets. Baugh was the last surviving member of the Pro Football Hall Of Fame’s inaugural Class of 1963 and truly among the last of a bygone gridiron era. When naming the greatest football player of all-time, Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s name is usually in the conversation. When naming the most beautiful football cards of all-time, Baugh’s 1952 Bowman rendition is in the conversation too.

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