A gifted natural athlete, Sam Chapman was a star collegiate player on the gridiron as well as the ball diamond. He was a star halfback for the University of California that won the 1938 Rose Bowl. An All-American football player, Chapman seemed destined to make football his profession but Connie Mack lured him away from the gridiron and made Sam an elite center fielder during the war era.
When Sam made his debut with the Philadelphia A’s their dynasty of Foxx, Grove and Cochrane was an afterthought. Gone were the glory days of battling for the title when Sam donned his Major League uniform, but he teamed with Indian Bob Johnson to give A’s fans hope for the future. As a rookie in 1938, Sam clubbed 17 homeruns. He hit a solid .269 his sophomore year but enjoyed a breakout year in 1940.
In 1940 Chapman swatted 23 homeruns and drove home 75 runs for a last place A’s team. Their offense had some life with Johnson, Frankie Hayes, Wally Moses and Dick Siebert teaming with Sam but the mound staff was abysmal, forcing the Mackmen to lose 100 games. As good as Sam was in 1940, he was even better in 1941. He finished second to Joe DiMaggio in homeruns and RBI among Major League center fielders. Although Joltin’ Joe owned the headlines with his famous hitting streak in ’41, Sam was not to be outdone. Chapman hit a lusty .322 and scored 97 runs on a much weaker team than Joltin’ Joe’s Yankees.
Many players look forward to capitalizing on their greatest year during the next campaign but when Pearl Harbor was bombed Sam joined the military and missed the 1942 through ’44 seasons. Serving as a pilot instructor, Sam was unable to play Major League ball for the better part of four years. He returned late in the 1945 season, with teammates Al Brancato and Phil Marchildon, to play in just nine games.
Named to the All-Star team his first year back from the war, Sam slugged twenty homers–he was the only Philadelphia player to eclipse ten long balls during the season. In 1947, Sam finished second to Joe DiMaggio in runs and RBI among American League center fielders. After a subpar 1948 season Sam rebounded in 1949 to lead AL center fielders in homeruns and RBI. He and Hall of Famer Larry Doby were the only AL center fielders to reach twenty homeruns and doubles.
The A’s were still a last place team in 1950 when Sam led the club in homeruns (23), RBI (95) and runs scored (93). After a sluggish start in 1951, the first year that Connie Mack wasn’t at the helm in Philly, Sam was dealt to the Indians where he ended his career.
G 1,368/R 754/H 1,329/2B 210/3B 52/HR 180/RBI 773/BB 562/SO 682/SB 41/BA .266/SA .438