The History Corner
by David Mostardi, Club Historian
Once Upon A Hillside: 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago
Number 20 in a series of articles profiling notable Hillside Club members of the past.
Charles E. Chapman – Club member for 8 years (1921-28)
Elizabeth Adams Russell Chapman – Club member for 14 years (1921-34)
Can you imagine someone who was both a UC history professor and also a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club? Meet Charles Chapman, the consummate scholar-athlete.
Charles Edward Chapman was born in Franklin, New Hampshire in 1880, the son of a pharmacist. His interest in baseball began at the age of three, when a foul ball just grazed the side of his head. He was a star athlete in many sports, including tennis and golf, but his love was always baseball. He played all throughout his youth, and made the starting outfield at Princeton University were the highlight, so he said, was driving in the winning run against Yale. He transferred to Tufts University and graduated in 1902. Over the next few years he played in various levels of minor-league and semi-pro baseball, but he also entered Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1906 and took a long post-graduate trip to Hawaii, Japan, and China, arriving in San Francisco just after the 1906 earthquake.
In 1907, Chapman married Elizabeth Adams Russell, also a Tufts graduate. They were both skilled bridge players and won several duplicate tournaments together. Chapman earned a masters degree at UC Berkeley in 1909 and spent one year teaching history at Riverside High School. He then returned to Cal, earning his Ph.D. in 1915. His specialty was the history of Spain, and he and Elizabeth spent the year 1912 abroad in Seville. (Their son Seville Dudley Chapman was born there and named for the city; he would later become Assistant Professor of Physics at Stanford. Seville’s son Clark Chapman is currently a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.)
Chapman spent the 1920-21 academic year as an exchange professor at the University of Chile in Santiago. He returned to Berkeley in 1921, and this is when he and Elizabeth joined the Hillside Club. It’s also when Branch Rickey signed Chapman as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals (Rickey is best known today for signing Jackie Robinson as the first African-American player in the major leagues). In his day job, Chapman wrote several books on Spanish colonial California, and contributed extensively to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Because of Chapman’s sporting accomplishments, he was much better known to the general public than most academics, and his death in 1941 from a heart attack was widely reported in the press. His final book, Play Ball, about the American pastime, was published just before his death.
The Chapmans divorced in 1928, and the following year Charles married Alice Aimee Fleming, an Oakland native 26 years his junior. Aimee died in 2002 at the age of 95, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery alongside Charles. Elizabeth Chapman died in 1957 at the age of 76.