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On This Date in Sports September 16, 1937: The NFL in Washington

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

After five years of lukewarm support in Boston, the Redskins, make their debut in Washington. The game also marks the debut of Sammy Baugh, who was taken with the sixth overall pick in the NFL Draft out of TCU. With 24,942 fans at Griffith Stadium, the Redskins beat the New York Giants 13-3. The Redskins would complete their first season in Washington with an NFL Championship.

Founded by George Preston Marshall in 1932, the franchise began as the Boston Braves, borrowing the name of the National League Baseball club, with whom they shared a stadium. After one season at Braves Field, the team moved to Fenway Park, home of the American League’s Boston Red Sox, and became the Boston Redskins. However, the team struggled at the box office, as professional football was a tough sell to New Englanders. In 1936, the Redskins posted their first winning season under coach Ray Flaherty and went to the NFL Championship Game. However, due to poor sales, the game initially scheduled for the Eastern Division Champions was moved to the Polo Grounds in New York when the Redskins were beaten by the Green Bay Packers 21-6.

Unable to attract fans in Boston, George Preston Marshall decided to move the Redskins to Washington, D.C., where they would play their games at Griffith Stadium. In their first game against the New York Giants, fans were awed by the play of rookie Quarterback Sammy Baugh who threw the ball longer and further than every other passer in the league. Baugh helped the Redskins score on their first possession to set up Riley Smith on a 19-yard field goal. The Giants answered with a field goal of their own in the second quarter, as the game was tied 3-3 at the end of three-quarters. The Redskins would swing momentum in their favor in the fourth quarter when Riley Smith picked a Jim Neil pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. Smith added the extra point and later kicked a second field goal, scoring all 13 points for the Redskins as they beat the Giants 13-3 in their first game in Washington.

The Washington Redskins would post a record of 8-3 that first year in their new home on the Potomac, again winning the Eastern Division. Sammy Baugh would throw three touchdown passes in the NFL Championship as the Redskins upset the Chicago Bears 28-21 at Wrigley Field. Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, as the media dubbed him, would become the NFL’s most prolific passer of the leather helmet era, with 21,886 with 187 touchdowns. Additionally, Baugh played defensive back and led the NFL in interceptions in 1943. The Redskins appeared in the NFL Championship five times in their first nine years in Washington, thanks to Sammy Baugh, winning a second championship in 1942.