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Washington Redskins in the LIFE Photo Archives

By Steve Spurrier III | January 2nd, 2009

TIME has recently teamed up with Google to make their LIFE photo archives available on the web. Most of these photos never made it into print, and the process of digitalizing around 10 million photos is still ongoing. It’s an incredible resource, and Google Images makes the archive easy to search.

There are some fantastic football shots. Unfortunately, the best pictures don’t involve the Redskins; I had no idea this media biased stretched back so far. But there are a lot of interesting photos of the hometown team, and I’ve linked them here for your convenience.

1938 Team

The Redskins’ 1937 Championship season apparently caught someone’s attention at LIFE, because there are a number of portraits of players on the 1938 team. Some are unidentified (although I’m pretty sure that’s Ernie Pinckert, who made the Pro Bowl in 1938), others we all ought to know, such as Sammy Baugh (here wearing a helmet) and the original #17, Turk Edwards (here wearing a cap). And if you think the game is tough today, two unidentified players offer a black eye (best guess: Less Olsonn) and a broken nose (best guess: Ben Smith) as evidence that 1930’s football makes today’s game look like hopscotch.

Also, we have a shot of Henry “Red” Krause and a sort of awkward picture of the very hairy Edwin Kahn. I’m guessing that these pictures were taken in the preseason, because Kahn played his last regular season NFL game in 1937.

Finally, the man who holds the highest winning percentage in team history, Ray Flaherty. I’m intrigued by the logo on his hat – it looks like the bottom of an over-lapping “N” and “Y”. Perhaps from his playing days with the Yankees or Giants?

Eddie LeBaron

LIFE must have done a feature on Eddie LeBaron, because he has a ton of pictures in the archives. Not only do we see him on the field, but also at home with his family and at a car dealership.

There are a number of shots from an October 1958 game against the Giants. One is bug’s eye view of the Redskins huddle (unfortunately, the only other player we can clearly make out is #51, center Jim Schrader). Others are Eddie on the bench and a nice action shot of LeBaron running the ball as halfback Jim Podoley (#24) and guard Dick Stanfel (#60) look to block. According to, this game would have taken place on October 12, 1958. The Giants, who would go on to lose the 1958 NFL Championship in “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, defeated the Redskins 21-14 on a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Charlie Conerly to Ken MacAfee.

Throwback Thursday: Eddie LeBaron

Charlie Conerly

Conerly was actually an eleventh-round draft pick of the Redskins in 1945. The quarterback did graduate from college in 1945, but played two more seasons at Ole Miss in 1946 and 1947, I guess as a graduate student. The Redskins retained both interest and his rights, and were still scouting Conerly in 1947. According to the Washington Post, when Redskins General Manager Dick McCann was asked why Washington would be interested in quarterbacks when Sammy Baugh was still going strong, he replied, “They’d make wonderful trading material, wouldn’t they?”

Indeed they would, and the Redskins traded Conerly’s rights to the Giants for halfback Howie Livingston. The idea was that the Redskins already had their quarterback of the future in Alabama rookie Harry Gilmer, and this was a chance to land Livingston for a prospect who may end up playing baseball (Conerly would end up turning down a $100,000 contract to play for the Dodgers). The trade proved to be a mistake, as Livingston recorded just two rushing attempts in two and a half seasons with the Redskins while Conerly won top rookie honors in 1948 and went on to quarterback the Giants for a decade, making the Pro Bowl twice and leading New York to a world title in 1956.

LeBaron Again

Harry Gilmer did end up making two Pro Bowls himself, but the guy who really ended up succeeding Baugh was LeBaron. LeBaron never won a championship like Conerly, but he did make four Pro Bowls, including one in this featured 1958 season. But Eddie must have known he couldn’t play forever, because he gave new meaning to the term student-athlete by studying law at George Washington University. LeBaron would complete his J.D. in 1959 and joined a law firm in Midland, Texas. LeBaron’s employer was willing to let him keep playing, but LeBaron retired, citing the distance between Midland and Washington. Luckily, LeBaron found a team closer to his new employer, and became the first quarterback of the expansion Cowboys (pictured here with founding owner Clint Murchison, Jr.) The Redskins traded his rights to Dallas for veteran defensive lineman Ray Krouse and a draft pick, which would end up being Norm Snead.

Quarterbacks of the NFL, 1961

LIFE made the starting quarterbacks for each team get together for a group shot prior to the 1961 season. The players had to each throw a ball simultaneously, which made for some interesting takes. I’m sure that didn’t get old quick. Most of the uniforms look awfully similar in black and white, but this color shot really makes the jerseys stand out. It’s hard to believe that those Cowboys uniforms are now throwbacks, because when they first came out, those stars on the shoulders must have been considered cutting-edge. Redskins rookie quarterback Norm Snead is second from the right in the back row, and the man who he will one day be traded for, Sonny Jurgensen, is second from the right in the front row, wearing an Eagles jersey. That’s painful to look at. Jim Ninowski, who would play for the Redskins sparingly in 1967 and 1968, is the first man on left in the front row, representing the Detroit Lions.

LIFE 1961 Quarterbacks Photo

LIFE 1961 Quarterbacks Photo

Otto Graham

Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham coached the Redskins from 1966 to 1968, and he makes a number of appearances in the archives, including sporting his short shorts in a 1966 practice. We also see Otto with his son before his Redskins debut, a 35-0 loss to the Baltimore Colts in an exhibition game held on August 3, 1966.

Here are two more pictures, probably from training camp: One features Graham with an unidentified quarterback (I’d be willing to bet it’s Dick Shiner, who wore #14 at Maryland and was with the Redskins in 1966), and the other shows Graham speaking to both #14 and to the man himself, Sonny Jurgensen. For the record, I absolutely love the helmet Jurgensen is leaning on.

October 11, 1970

It’s weird seeing anyone other than Barry Sanders wearing #20 for the Lions, but that’s what Len Barney was sporting as he tried to guard Redskins wideouts Jon Henderson, Walter Roberts and future Hall of Famer Charlie Taylor. I’m assuming these pictures are from October 11, 1970 – a 31-10 Redskins victory. The Redskins only wore those yellow helmets in 1970 and 1971, and Washington only played the Lions once in that span, although it’s always possible these were taken in a preseason game. If this was the aforementioned 1970 game, then Barney didn’t do a very good job, as Taylor caught six balls for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

Everything Else that’s Even Remotely Relevant

Ronald Reagan’s 1927 high school football team. Assuming the date is correct and Reagan didn’t repeat or skip any grades, this was probably taken when he was 16 and in his junior year of high school. It’s a real stretch in terms of being Redskins-related, but I’m going to include it based on his “Where’s Ricky Sanders?” line at the Super Bowl XXII celebration.

Also not really Redskins-related, but definitely Washington D.C.-related. LIFE had a number of photos from a 1946 game between Howard University and Shaw College, probably the Homecoming game judging the crowd and the festivities. I love Howard’s uniforms, but they apparently weren’t issued to everyone. Looking at those pictures and this shot of the bench, it looks like all uniform numbers 51 and above are on the plain whites, and every number 50 and below are in the striped jerseys. In fact, if you zoom in on this team photo, you can see a player wearing #100, about twelve or so guys in from the left on the second row. Fortunately, the cheerleaders were having no uniform issues.

Sort of Redskins Related

There aren’t any shots of Griffith Stadium setup for football, the Redskins home from 1937-1960, but there are plenty of baseball and even church services.

A 1952 shot of Maryland quarterback Jack Scarbath. Scarbath would be Redskins’ 1953 first round pick (third overall), but was out of the NFL by 1957.

Future Redskins linebacker and radio color man Sam Huff in a 1959 game against the Cardinals.

Joe Kuharich coached the Redskins from 1954 to 1958, compiling a 26-32-2 record. Here, he leads Notre Dame against Northwestern in 1959. The Irish fell 30-24, perhaps due to those funky helmets they were wearing.

Vaguely Redskins Related

1961 was the Redskins first in RFK (then known as D.C. Stadium). This picture shows the structure in April of the next year, as John F. Kennedy took in the first game of the Senator’s baseball season.

Ernie Davis was the first overall pick of the 1962 draft and the first black player to ever be under Redskins control. He was immediately traded to the Browns for Bobby Mitchell, who would become the first black player to ever actually play for the Redskins. Davis was diagnosed with lukemia in the summer of 1962, and never played a game for the Browns. Here, Davis watches the Browns practice in October of 1962. He would pass away just seven months later.

Future Redskins Head Coach Steve Spurrier runs a little Fun ‘n Gun of his own as a Florida Gator in 1966.

Not Redskins Related But…

Not really Redskins-related, other than the fact it makes the Cowboys look like dopes, but here is “Dandy” Don Meredith posing in a suit of armor. I’m not really sure I want to know what the story is there.

This 1971 picture of George Allen was mis-identified as taking place during a Packers and Colts game. It makes me wonder if this photo, filed under the same set, is actually of the Redskins marching band.

Washington Post sports editor Shirley Povich, posing with a book in 1959.


Edit: This article used to be full of great links to photos but unfortunately Google changed their location, rendering them all broken. You can still access the archive created by Google for LIFE.

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One Response to “Washington Redskins in the LIFE Photo Archives”

  1. I’m glad to see someone else who likes Sonny with a chance as much as I do, GradyZora is my favorite character on the show. Thanks for this post, I enjoyed reading it!