However, he really wanted to become a professional baseball player and almost received a scholarship to play at Washington State University. But about a month before he started at Washington State, Baugh hurt his knee while sliding into second base during a game, and the scholarship fell through.
In the spring of his senior year, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall offered Baugh $4,000 to play with the franchise. Originally unsure about playing professional football (coach Meyer offered him a job as the freshman coach and still thought about playing professional baseball), he did not agree to the contract until after the College All-Star Game, where the team beat the Green Bay Packers 6-0.
Baugh was also a baseball player at Texas Christian, where he played third baseman. It was during his time as a baseball player that he earned the nickname "Slingin' Sammy", which he got from a Texas sportswriter. After college, Sammy signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals and was sent to the minor leagues in Columbus, Ohio after being converted to shortstop. He was then sent to an even lower league in Rochester, New York. While there he received little playing time behind starting shortstop Marty Marion and was unhappy with his prospects, so he then turned to professional football.
During his rookie season in 1937, Baugh played quarterback, defensive back, and punter, set an NFL record for completions with 91 in 218 attempts and threw for a league-high 1,127 yards. He led the Redskins to the NFL Championship game against the Chicago Bears, where he finished 17 of 33 for 335 yards and his second-half touchdown passes of 55, 78 and 33 yards gave Washington a 28-21 victory. The Redskins and Bears would meet three times in championship games between 1940 and 1943. In the 1940 Championship game, the Bears recorded the most one-sided victory in NFL history, beating Washington 73-0.
In 1942, Baugh and the Redskins won the East Conference with a 10-1 record. During the same season the Bears went 11-0 and outscored their opponents 376-84. In the 1942 Championship game, Baugh threw a touchdown pass and kept the Bears in their own territory with some strong punts, including an 85-yard quick kick, and Washington won 14-6. Baugh was even more successful in 1943 and led the league in passing, punting (45.9-yard average) and interceptions (11). One of Baugh's more memorable single performances during the season was when he threw four touchdown passes and intercepted four passes in a 42-20 victory over Detroit. The Redskins again made it to the championship game, but lost to the Bears 41-21. During the game, Baugh suffered a concussion while tackling Bears quarterback Sid Luckman and had to leave.
During the 1945 season, Baugh completed 128 of 182 passes for a 70.33 completion percentage, which was an NFL record then and remains the second best today (to Ken Anderson, 70.55 in 1982). He threw 11 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. The Redskins again won the East Conference but lost 15-14 in the 1945 Championship game against the Cleveland Rams. The one-point margin of victory came under scrutiny because of a safety that occurred early in the game. In the first quarter, the Redskins had the ball at their own line. Dropping back into the end zone, Baugh threw to an open receiver, but the ball hit the goal post (which at the time were on the goal line instead of at the back of the end zone) and bounced back to the ground in the end zone. Under the rules at the time, this was ruled as a safety and thus gave the Rams a 2–0 lead. It was that safety that proved to be the margin of victory. Owner Marshall was so mad at the outcome that he became a major force in passing the following major rule change after the season: A forward pass that strikes the goal posts is automatically ruled incomplete. This later became known as the "Baugh/Marshall Rule". One of Baugh's more memorable single performances came on "Sammy Baugh Day" on November 23, 1947. That day, the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club honored him at Griffith Stadium and gave him a station wagon. Against the Chicago Cardinals he passed for 355 yards and six touchdowns. That season, the Redskins finished 4-8, but Baugh had career highs in completions (210), attempts (354), yards (2,938) and touchdown passes (25), leading the league in all four categories.
Baugh played for five more years -- leading the league in completion percentage for the sixth and seventh times in 1948 and 1949. He then retired after the 1952 season. In his final game, a 27-21 win over Philadelphia at Griffith Stadium, he played for several minutes before retiring to a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd. Baugh won a record-setting six NFL passing titles and earned first-team All-NFL honors seven times in his career. He completed 1,693 of 2,995 passes for 21,886 yards.
Baugh still holds the NFL punting record for highest average in a career (45.1 yards) and has the best (51.4 in 1940) and third best (48.7 in 1941) season marks. He was the first player in league history to intercept four passes in a game and is the only player to lead the league in passing, punting and interceptions in the same season. Baugh also led the league in punting from 1940 through 1943.
Baugh now lives in a nursing home in a little West Texas town not far from Double Mountain Ranch. The Double Mountain Ranch is now in the hands of Baughs' son David and is still a cow-calf operation, on 20,000 acres.