SABR

Charles Chapman

This article was written by Jim Sandoval.

Most professional scouts are former players who have spent their adult life working in the game.  A few scouts have come from other professions.  It is the very rare scout who has the résumé of Dr. Charles Chapman.  He was the very definition of a scholar-athlete. 

Chapman was a college player and coach.  He played professionally in the minor leagues.  He served as a baseball ambassador in Japan.  He worked as an attorney and a history professor.  He was the author of ten books and the leading expert on Hispanic history in his time.

He was a tennis champ, bridge expert (he won several duplicate bridge tournaments with his wife), and golf champ.  Chapman was awarded the Mitre Medal of the Hispanic Society of America.  He played a leading role in the founding of the Hispanic American Historical Review, serving on the editorial board from 1917 to 1941He was a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Finally he worked as a full-time baseball scout while continuing to be a history professor.

Charles Edward Chapman was born on June 3, 1880, in Franklin, New Hampshire, son of Frank Hilton Chapman, a druggist, and Ella Frances (James) Chapman.  He was one of five children, his siblings were brothers Eben Lord, Frank William, and John Henry, and sister Lucy Boardman.

Chapman said his interest in baseball began at the age of 3 when his parents took him to a game where a foul ball just grazed the side of his head.  He began to play in sandlot games, showing his toughness by catching the ball with his bare hands no matter how hard the “big boys” could throw it.  He gravitated to the catcher position early on as a player but was eventually to play professionally every position on the diamond except shortstop and center field.

Chapman was a member of the Phillips Andover Academy Class of 1898, He played the infield on the baseball team.  He entered Princeton University in September 1898 and spent two years on the baseball team. He served as secretary/treasurer of the sophomore class.  On the 1899 squad he was a substitute and during the 1900 season he was a regular in the lineup as an outfielder.  Chapman said his highlight there was delivering a hit that drove in the winning run in a game against rival Yale University. 

Chapman then transferred to Tufts University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1902.  He played halfback on the football team and was captain of the baseball squad in 1902. He led Tufts to a 17-6 record for the season. The 1902 Spalding Guide has a picture of the Tufts college team, including Chapman.  A scholar, he was named to Phi Beta Kappa.

In the summers Chapman played minor-league and semipro baseball. According to Outing magazine, the Princeton left fielder played under the name of Al Rogers.  Eligibility rules were much laxer then and many players played professional baseball while still retaining college eligibility.

SABR’s minor-league database records numerous stops for Chapman beginning with the 1901 Meriden Silver Citys club of the Connecticut State League, where he played in 65 games with a .295 batting average.  In 1903, he played second base with the New England League’s Haverhill Hustlers, hitting .224 in 31 games.  In 1904 Chapman played for Manchester of the New England League, hitting .253 in 64 games while primarily playing first base.  In his career Chapman played all over the diamond.

In 1902 Chapman played for a semipro team.  The Worcester Daily Spy reported that on June 9 the Whitinsville, Massachusetts, team was to come under the management of Chapman, then captain of the Tufts team.  Chapman was a player-manager.  He said he could make more as a player-manager there than he could in Organized Baseball.  It was reported that in one game major-league stars Nap Lajoie and Elmer Flick played for him, the stated reason being that they were not allowed to travel to Philadelphia because of litigation over the American League’s signing of National League players.

Four players, including Flick and Lajoie, had jumped their contracts with the Philadelphia Phillies to move to the Philadelphia Athletics.  Phillies owner John Rogers took them to court, eventually winning an injunction from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that proscribed the men from playing anywhere in the state except for the Phillies.  Flick and Lajoie had since moved on to play for the Cleveland club and simply avoided playing in the games in Philadelphia

In 1902 Chapman entered the Harvard Law School, and earned his law degree in 1905.  While a law student he was an assistant coach in football and baseball.  He was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts and California in 1906.  Chapman embarked on a six-month postgraduate trip to California, Hawaii, Japan, and China, returning on the ship Manchuria just after the earthquake in San Francisco.  The trip was to change his life, both ending his professional playing career and opening  doors for a new career in California.

While Chapman was in Japan, a hotel clerk overheard him talking about baseball, and Chapman found himself invited to help coach the Imperial High School team of Tokyo.  While at this task he injured his arm throwing. When he returned to the United States, he had a tryout with a Pacific Coast League team but his arm was dead.  He played semiprofessional baseball off and on the next few years in the San Rafael, California, area.

Chapman practiced law for one year in California, with the San Francisco law firm  Maddux and Maddux.  He worked on major cases for the United Railroad and Western Electric, and also dabbled in real estate working for Crawford, Robertson, and Company,

Sausalito, California, was where Chapman brought home a bride in June 1907, marrying Elizabeth Adams Russell, also of the Tufts class of ’02. They had one son, Seville Dudley Chapman, who went on to earn his own Ph.D, and taught in the physics departments at Stanford University and the University of Kansas.  Meanwhile, Charles played some semipro baseball from 1908 to 1911, including Bay Area stops in San Rafael and Larkspur.

Charles Chapman studied at the University of California in 1908 and ‘09, earning a master’s degree, then moved to Southern California for a year and taught history at Riverside High School (now Riverside Poly High School) in the 1909-1910 school year.  Poly is the alma mater of major-league players Bobby Bonds, Greg Myers, Jo Jo Reyes, Ben Blomdahl, Wayne Gross, Gary Lucas, and Donnie Murphy.

Chapman returned to the University of California at Berkeley as an assistant in the history department from 1910 to 1912 while continuing his studies toward earning a Ph.D. in history, a goal accomplished in 1915.

Serving as a Native Sons of the West Traveling Fellow, Chapman engaged in research in the archives of Spain (1912-1914), studying at the University of Seville, where his son was born and aptly named.  There he completed the Catalogue of Materials in the Archivo General de Indias for the History of the Pacific Coast and the American Southwest.     He returned to Berkeley as an instructor in history in 1914; upon being granted his doctorate, he was named an assistant professor in 1915. He was promoted to associate professor in 1919 and to full professor in 1927.

In 1916, Chapman traveled to Argentina to represent the university at an international conference on bibliography and history.  He visited many other Central and South American countries while on this journey.  He made many research trips to Latin America throughout his teaching career, finding time to watch some local baseball.  He was once quoted in a Baseball Digest issue about players in the Cuban winter league, commenting on the fact that the league was racially integrated.

Chapman spent 1920-21 as an exchange professor at the University of Chile at Santiago.  After his return to the United States in 1921, he wrote to St. Louis Cardinals General Manager Branch Rickey naming prospects who had caught his eye.  He so impressed Rickey that he was hired as a part-time recommending scout.  Rickey had sent scout Charley Barrett to meet with Chapman, and Barrett sent in a positive report, recommending that Chapman be hired.

Charles was divorced from his first wife sometime in the 1920s and was remarried, to a much younger woman, Amie Fleming, about 25 years his junior.  Apparently the Fleming family approved of the marriage as the 1930 census stated that Charles and Amie lived in the household of her father, Charles.  The 1930 census also showed that his first wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Seville, remained in the Bay Area, living in Berkeley.

In 1931 Chapman earned second  place in a Sporting News contest on predicting pennant contenders, listing where teams would be in the standings at the midpoint of year (July 4), earning himself a $50 prize.  In April of that year Chapman, 50 years old, played his last organized baseball game: He caught for the faculty team against the Skull and Keys Society at the University of California, helping win the game 6-2 “by hitting safely in four times at bat.”  Chapman himself recorded that he had two doubles in the game. 

Chapman was a Pacific Coast scout for 20 years, working for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1921 to 1932 and the Cincinnati Reds from 1932 to 1941.  He mainly scouted the Pacific Coast League, with some college scouting mixed in.

In 1933 Chapman signed infielder Tony Robello, who had a brief major-league career and went on to become a scout himself, Robello’s most prominent signing being Johnny Bench.  Along with Robello, Chapman is credited with signing Dick Adams, Lincoln Blakely, Taylor Douthit, Lee Grissom, Chick Hafey, Syl Johnson, Ray Lamanno, Les Scarsella, and Bobby Adams.

In 1936 Chapman was involved in preliminary planning for the formation of a Class D league in the San Joaquin valley, but the league did not come to fruition.

Chapman died on November 17, 1941, at the Peralta Hospital in Orinda, California, from complications of a heart attack he had suffered three weeks earlier. He was 61 years old. He was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California.

Chapman published the following books and about 150 articles in various professional journals.

  • The Founding of Spanish California (1916)
  • A Californian in South America (1917)
  • A History of Spain (1918)
  • Catalogue of Materials in the Archivo General de Indias for the History of the Pacific Coast and the American Southwest (1919)
  • A History of California: The Spanish Period (1921)
  • A History of the Cuban Republic (1927)
  • Colonial Hispanic America: A History (1933)
  • Republican Hispanic America: A History (1937)
  • The Busher’s Guide: Advice for Young Ballplayers, with Hank Severeid (1941)

See also:

Charles E. Chapman, “A Second Rate Scout” unpublished article from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

Charles E. Chapman, “Adventures of a Professorial Scout” unpublished article from the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

Sources:

Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1936: A12 

The Sporting News, July 23, 1931: 3; March 2, 1933: 5; May 24, 1934: 2

Tufts College Alumni Bulletin, September 1942, V16: 15

Tufts College Graduate, 1907, Vol. 5, No. 2

Princeton Alumni Weekly, March 4, 1938

New York Times, November 18, 1941

Phillips Andover Academy Archives

Biographical Record of Leading Citizens of Essex County, Mass.
Ship records from ancestry.com

Baseball Digest 1958

www.thebaseballcube.com

www.sunsite.berkeley.edu

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