In this edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor a flashy, playmaking, record-breaking star who anchored the Lions’ Silver Rush defenses of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
34. Al “Bubba” Baker
Defensive End. 1978-82 Detroit; 1983-86 St. Louis Cardinals; 1987, 1989-90 Cleveland Browns; 1988 Minnesota Vikings
Al “Bubba” Baker remains – thirty years after his time as a Lion – one of the most dominant defenders in franchise history. After exploding onto the scene with a team-record 21.5 sacks as a rookie in 1978; Baker, during his five-year Lion career, would record an unbelievable 73 sacks. Unfortunately, the NFL didn’t recognize the “Sack” as a official statistic until 1982. Otherwise, Al would rank among the NFL’s all-time statistical greats in that category.
Baker followed his rookie debut with seasons of 16, and 17 sacks, respectively, during the 1979 and ‘80 campaigns. Bubba teamed with Doug English, William Gay, Dave Pureifory, and John Woodcock to form the core of the Lions’ legendary “Silver Rush” defensive line. Their 1978 squad recorded a team record 55 sacks, and their 1981 unit would end up with 47. Both numbers rank first and fifth, respectively, on the Lions’ all-time list.
After numerous contract and media-driven battles with then-Lion General Manager Russ Thomas, Baker was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in July of 1983, for the Cards’ third and eighth-round choices in the 1984 draft. Bubba would play another eight years, collecting another 57 sacks, before he retired after the 1990 season.