Cliff Battles Boston Braves & Boston Redskins & Washington Redskins
"We enjoy playing football and we fight as hard as we can for our own self-respect. And in the back of our minds is the knowledge that we are earning our living because we are good football players. So we’ve got to keep on being good.”
Cliff Battles, a sensational running back from West Virginia Wesleyan College won the National Football League rushing title in 1932 as a rookie with the Boston Braves. The next year the Braves were renamed the Redskins and Battles became the first player ever to rush for more than 200 yards in a game. He accomplished in the feat on October 8, 1933 in a game against the New York Giants as he rushed 16 times for 215 yards, and scored one touchdown.
In 1937 Redskins George Preston Marshall moved his team from Boston to Washington. He brought Battles, the NFL's premier running back, with him and quickly added a sensational rookie passer, Sammy Baugh. It didn't seem out of the question that the Battles-Baugh ground and air threat would make the Redskins championship contenders for years to come. For the 1937 season, Baugh and Battles combined their talents just as everyone had anticipated. On the season’s final day, Battles scored three touchdowns to power the Redskins to a 49-14 win over the New York Giants for the Eastern Division title. Against the Chicago Bears a week later, Battles scored the first touchdown in a 28-21 victory that gave the Redskins their first NFL championship.
Battles was again the league’s leading rusher and he won all-league honors for the fifth time in six years. In just six seasons, Battles totaled 3,511 yards rushing – really big numbers for that era – and Redskins fans looked forward to more of the same in the upcoming seasons. With Battles carrying the ball and Baugh tossing it, championships seemed assured.
But it was not to be. Inexplicably, Marshall, who had paid Battles $3,000 a year, starting with his rookie campaign, refused to consider a raise, even though Cliff clearly was a star player with much fan appeal. After the season, the exasperated Battles accepted a $4,000 job as an assistant coach at Columbia University. The Redskins won only one more championship during Baugh’s long and storied career. Loyal Redskins fans were left to wonder, “what might have been” if Marshall had only given Battles a raise.