Baughan earns Philly HOF honors for 2nd time
Maxie Baughan still remembers his first impression of Philadelphia.
“It was so big,” Baughan said. “All those big buildings and big bridges. I was a country boy from south Alabama. I’d never seen anything like it. But I loved it. I’ve loved Philadelphia ever since.”
So it was especially sweet for the former Eagles linebacker when he returned to the city Thursday for the announcement of the 2012 Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame class. He was one of 16 inductees introduced at the Society Hill Sheraton. The enshrinement dinner will be held at the same hotel Nov. 8.
The 2012 class includes Doug Collins and Wali Jones (Sixers), Johnny Callison (Phillies), Eric Lindros (Flyers), Eddie Plank (Philadelphia A’s), Tommy Thompson (Eagles), Harold Johnson (boxing), Debbie Black (basketball), Horace Ashenfelter (track), Johnny McDermott (golf) and Gertrude Dunn (baseball and field hockey).
Also joining the Hall are two local products who achieved pro stardom in New York: Mike Piazza (Mets) and Joe Klecko (Jets). Dan Baker, the public address announcer for the Phillies and Eagles, is this year’s Legacy of Excellence recipient. The Legacy Youth Tennis and Education Association will be honored with the Lifetime Commitment award.
Of those introduced Thursday, Baughan held a singular distinction: he was the only one being enshrined for a second time. In 2006, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame inducted the entire 1960 Eagles world championship team of which Baughan was a member.
“I guess that means I’m in twice,” he said. “I’ll take it.”
Baughan was the only rookie to start every game for the 1960 Eagles. A second round draft pick from Georgia Tech, he was a fixture at outside linebacker with the Eagles for six seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors five times, an impressive feat in an era when the Pro Bowl really meant something.
“I played in the College All-Star game that summer (1960) so I joined the Eagles late,” Baughan recalled. “They were in Los Angeles for an exhibition game. I played the (All Star) game in Chicago on a Friday and joined the Eagles on Saturday. The coach (Buck Shaw) had me covering kicks that night against the Rams.
“The second (exhibition) game, I was starting linebacker. The third game, I was starting linebacker. The fourth game, I was starting linebacker. It dawned on me, ‘I might be the starting linebacker.’ I wound up starting the whole year and being part of a championship team.”
Baughan signed a $13,000 contract as a rookie with a $2,000 signing bonus. It doesn’t sound like much now but it seemed like all the money in the world to a sharecropper’s son out of Forkland, Al.
“My daddy worked the fields plowing behind a mule,” Baughan said. “He had it tough. When I got a football scholarship, wow, it was a big deal. When I left for college, my dad gave me $20 and said, ‘That’s it.’ And that was it. I had to make it last.”
Baughan earned All-America honors at Georgia Tech and although he played both ways, he excelled on defense where he set the school record for tackles as a senior. The Eagles drafted the 6-1, 220-pounder and plugged him into a veteran defense that included Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik, who played the other outside linebacker spot, and cornerback Tom Brookshier.
Baughan arrived in Philadelphia driving a new Chevy Impala, which he bought with his signing bonus, and he shared a room at the Walnut Park Plaza Hotel with another rookie, guard Gene Gossage. Don Burroughs, a safety acquired in a trade with the Rams, moved in with them and slept on a fold-out couch. That was life in the NFL fifty years ago.
“But you know what, we had a great time,” Baughan said. “I still look at this (championship) ring and think about how lucky I was to be a part of it.”
Baughan was a fan favorite at Franklin Field, and remained so even as the team’s fortunes declined after 1960. When coach Joe Kuharich traded him to the Rams in 1966, the fans were livid. Baughan went on to have great success playing for coach George Allen, first in Los Angeles and then in Washington where he ended his playing career in 1971.
“(Kuharich) and I didn’t hit it off so I asked to be traded,” Baughan said. “I told him I wanted to play either in New York because that’s where the money is or in Atlanta so I could be close to home. So he traded me to Los Angeles which is clear on the other side of the country, but it turned out great for me. I loved playing with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and the rest of that Fearsome Foursome.”Hall of Fame Notes
Bill Melchionni represented Wali Jones, his former Villanova and Sixers teammate, at the luncheon. Melchionni, who grew up in South Jersey, credited Jones with developing his game. Said Melchionni: “Wali told me, ‘You have to come to Philly to really learn how to play so I took the train from Jersey and hopped the subway to North Philly so I could play in the playgrounds."
Dan Baker noted that he became the Phillies public address announcer in 1972. Said Baker: “Steve Carlton, Kiteman and I all came in the same year.” E-mail Ray Didinger at firstname.lastname@example.org