* The umpiring community — not to mention baseball in Canada — is not in as good as shape as it was … with the passing of Harold Chapman, 75. Chapman, right, shown here with Baseball Canada president Ray Carter, was provincial umpire supervisor in BC for 35 years (1974-2009).
Adam Morissette:Baseball Canada Mourns
By Tom Valcke
Without question, Chappy’s best friend in baseball was a guy who, ironically, couldn’t live further apart from him in this country. I know Fredericton’s Dave McManus loved Howard dearly. As recently as last August, while I was coaching at the Women’s Nationals in Surrey, BC and Chappy came to see us every day, his first comment after our initial hug was “We gotta call Davey!”.
Chappy could never figure out how we could get his room key. We live in Canada, where people trust each other. At every tournament or Annual General Meeting or whatever it was that would bring us together, we had this covert operation down pat like a well-oiled machine.
A special Ops type (e.g., Baba … code name Doerksen) would go to a house phone, call the front desk and ask for Howard’s room. I’d be at the front desk and watch the clerk punch in the room number. Then I’d wait a bit, flip my event credential over, write Howard Chapman on it, then walk up to the front desk, and say that I was Howard Chapman and that I had locked my key in my room.
I’d give them the room number, and when they’d ask for ID, I would completely ignore the fake credential, and start checking pocket-to-pocket, act like I was getting progressively concerned, and then innocently claim that my wallet must also be in my room, and apologize for having no way of proving who I was. Then, the hotel clerk, would always point at the credential, and say, well, that is enough proof for me, and hand over a key.
The ultimate compliment to Chappy was this:
Chappy, while officials in other circles would look at the schedule to see what teams they were umping that day, the umpires who know you would look to see who they were umping with that day. If they were paired with you, they knew they were in for an adventure. You got the calls right, which will always be No. 1. But you epitomized what umpires say to start the game, which is “Play Ball” – you made the game more fun for all of us.
You are a dear, treasured friend who will always be remembered. In the framework of Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”, I wrote this for you:
O Chapman! My Chapman!
O Chapman! My Chapman! Our tricks and pranks are done;
Our time at baseball Nats and Worlds was always endless fun;
You the cagey vet, ump supreme, and diplomat,
Our teacher of all rules that dealt with ball and bat:
But O heart! heart! heart!
Your greatest feature, made of gold,
Ran out of gas, its usage maxed,
After yours, God broke the mold.
O Chappy! My Chappy! You let us pull off pranks with ease;
Like a dad playing hockey with his kid, goaltending like swiss cheese;
Be it swiping your mini-fridge’s liquor, or your stash of underwear,
Or making jello in your toilet, ‘twas as though you didn’t care:
They’d insist, “He was safe (or out)!”.
But if a coach did overstate
You’d simply, subtly clap your hands
And gently wave him out the gate.
You’d tip a few, and wake not knowing what may loom;
Perhaps a jungle of hotel plants that completely filled your room?
Assorted fruits spread under your covers? You’d just shake your head!
The best? A mannequin side you in your bed!
Come on Blue! Did he go?
One game was good, but two you’d savour.
You umped with class and respected the game,
The game and all of us, with ease returned the favour.
(Tom Valcke, former president and CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, now runs the popular iCASE Baseball Academy in Stratford as well as being field manager and general manager and coaching girls baseball … was above all a dear friend of the late Harold Chapman.)