It’s about the Lakers-Spurs series, but not about the players. It’s about the Lakers’ fans. The best thing any road team can do in any sport is take the home town fans out of the game by jumping off to a huge lead. Long before the Spurs routed the Lakers in game 6 of their recent series, when the game was still a game, you’d have never known it by the reaction of the fans. There was a huge crowd, but little crowd noise to spur (pardon the play on words) the home team Lakers on. Even when L.A. fans are noisy, they are quiet by comparison to most sports venues. The fans in L.A. will never win a "best supporting cast" award.
This one’s about the players, the Mighty incredible Ducks. Just as the Angels put Anaheim on the MLB map last October, the Ducks are doing it now in the NHL. They just completed their second straight sweep in the playoffs, and are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time. Don’t ever minimize the importance of a hot goaltender in the playoffs; Jean- Sebastien Giguere stopped 122 of 123 Minnesota shots in the Western Conference Finals. The Ducks could well win the Stanley Cup this year, and that would be some mighty story!!
Story of the Week
Sammy Baugh’s greatest season, 1943, takes us way back, but the sheer mastery still shines across the years. He not only led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions, but he set an incredible mark of four interceptions in a game, a record that has never been broken and never will be broken. His punting efforts alone (he led the league in 1940 with a still-record 51.4 yard average) would keep him on the payroll today.
A considerable school supports the thinking that Baugh brought pro football into the current age, making the transition from single-wing tailback to quarterback as the game moved into the T-formation era. He played 16 years, and led the NFL in passing six times.
When Sammy Baugh appeared on the pro scene, drafted out of Texas Christian University by the Redskins as they were shifting from Boston to Washington, the forward pass was almost an afterthought. Both the college and pro games recognized this by voting him among the eight greats named as charter members of their respective halls of fame.
The ‘40s was indeed the decade that saw the decline of the 60-minute player. Mourn the loss of the every-down player. And none was more prolific than Sammy Baugh. He left a mark that time will never erase. In the truest tradition, Baugh was bigger than life. He played the full 60 minutes in most games of his prime, which at the time was nothing remarkable in itself. (But his feats are certainly more appreciated today in this modern era of the specialist in football than they were then.) But Baugh was a decathlete on the football field; at varying times, he was the best quarterback, defensive back and punter of his era.
In 1943, Baugh had the best season any pro football player has ever had. In a 48-10 victory over Brooklyn, he set an NFL record with six touchdown passes. Two weeks later, he set another NFL mark, since equaled but never surpassed, with four picks from his safety position against Detroit. He led the league in passing, punting and picks in ’43. We rave about the rare two-way player ala Deion Sanders today, as we should, but Baugh had all-pro talent on offense, defense and special teams, playing every minute of the game in his time.
Former Hall-of-Fame quarterback Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears is on record. "Sammy Baugh was the best player the NFL has ever seen. No one will ever equal him." But whether Baugh is or isn’t the best player in NFL history, he certainly was the best 60-minute man to ever play the game.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who is the only player in baseball history to bat .300, hit 30 homers, drive in 100 runs, and score 100 runs in each of his first two seasons? Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, now in his third year.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the first switch-hitter to accumulate 100 hits from each side of the plate in one season? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.