April 11, 1916|
Tiburon, California, U.S.
|Died: December 22, 2006
Kentfield, California, U.S.
|May 16, 1938, for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 22, 1951, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||773|
|Career highlights and awards|
Samuel Blake Chapman (April 11, 1916 – December 22, 2006) was an American two-sport athletic star who played as a center fielder in Major League Baseball, spending nearly his entire career with the Philadelphia Athletics (1938–1941, 1945–1951). He batted and threw right-handed, leading the American League in putouts four times. He was previously an All-American college football player at the University of California.
Born in Tiburon, California, Chapman graduated from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, California in 1934, with letters in football, baseball, basketball and track; his football coach was former Cal star Roy Riegels.
Going to the university at Riegels' suggestion, Chapman starred in football for the Golden Bears, being named an All-American for the 1937 Pacific Coast Conference and national champion "Thunder Team", which went on to win the 1938 Rose Bowl; the last time California has won the game. Nicknamed the "Tiburon Terror", Chapman was also an All-American baseball player in college.
Turning down a pro football career after being drafted in the third round of the 1938 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, he made his debut with the Athletics on May 16, 1938, shortly after graduation. He played the rest of the year in left field, moving to center field the following year. As a rookie, he batted .259 with 17 home runs (second on the team to Bob Johnson) and 63 runs batted in. His batting average and RBI total increased steadily in each of the next three campaigns, to .269/64 (1939) and .276/75 (1940) before peaking with a .322 average and 106 RBI in 1941. In the latter year he had his best season, finishing fifth in the AL in both slugging average (.543) and total bases (300), with a career-best 25 home runs. On May 5, 1939, Chapman hit for the cycle against the St. Louis Browns.
He joined the Navy for World War II after the 1941 season, and served as a pilot and flight instructor in Corpus Christi, Texas. He returned to the Athletics in late 1945, and was named to the AL All-Star team in 1946. But he never quite returned to his pre-war level of play; apart from 1949, when he batted .278 with 24 HRs (tied for third in the AL) and 108 RBI (fifth in the AL), he never exceeded a .261 average. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians in May 1951, and ended the year with a .215 batting mark; he left the major leagues at the end of that season, but played three more years for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. In an 11-season major league career, Chapman posted a .266 batting average with 180 home runs, 773 RBI, 754 runs, 1329 hits and 41 stolen bases in 1368 games.
After leaving baseball, Chapman became an inspector for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984, and to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1999 he was named to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame. In 2006, the Tiburon Town Council voted to commission a statue of Chapman to be installed at the Tiburon ferry landing.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- BaseballLibrary – career highlights
- Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society
- College Football Hall of Fame
- Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame
- San Francisco Chronicle obituary
- Los Angeles Times obituary
- Marin Independent Journal: "Sam Chapman, former top athlete, dies at 90"
- Sam Chapman at Find a Grave