Remembering The Greatest: Dave Chapman Passes Away

Posted on Oct 28 2017 - 12:03pm by david

By David Fink

Handball lost its greatest champion on Tuesday, October 10, 2017, as David Chapman tragically passed away in his home at just 42 years of age. Everyone in the sport was impacted by Dave, having served as his student, opponent, friend, or admirer, and most cases, all of the above.

Chapman’s genius was unmistakable, drawing the admiration of the game’s greatest players, those who were watching the game for the first time, and all in between. Chapman’s unique personality was equally remarkable, as he was able to befriend people of all ages and backgrounds, inside and outside of handball. Dave was as at ease treating a billionaire to a fancy dinner as he was enjoying a beer with a novice player. Dave commanded a respect that could not be demanded, only earned through his supreme self-confidence. Dave was never arrogant, despite his incredible accomplishments, and was as equally self-deprecating as he was self-assured. So many people considered Dave to be their best friend, a testament to Dave’s magnetism, charisma, and willingness to spend time and listen. Although always focused at tournaments and trying to stay in his zone, Dave somehow always made time for everyone at the event, invariably leaving an indelible memory for all with whom he interacted. Dave was the kind of person you could never forget, whether you met him once or knew him for 30 years. Anyone who has any experiences with Dave will remember those experiences forever, as Dave always made every encounter with him unforgettable. Dave could blow up on the court and was extremely opinionated off of the court, but he never held a grudge. Dave never had a bad word to say about anyone, and if he had an argument with a player, a referee, or a friend, the argument always remained in the context of that specific event and never affected the friendship.

No matter where Dave played, whether it was St. Louis, Las Vegas, California, Australia, or anywhere in between, he always had a following. When Dave returned from a three-year hiatus to play in the Senior (40+) Big Ball Singes at the 2017 WPH Outdoor Vegas Lte in May, Dave had 25 fans travel from across the country to watch him play, along with every top pro and player in the event. Whatever match Dave played was the biggest match of the tournament. Following another one of his un-retirements in 2014, Dave faced then national finalist Martin Mulkerrins in a qualifier match at the R48 Houston. No one at that event will remember the final or any other match in that event, but they’ll all remember the lesson Dave taught Martin in that early-morning qualifier match.

Handball will never be the same without Dave. The sport lost a champion, a legend, a hero, a coach, a mentor, and one of the most personable, unique, and interesting people to ever play. Dave was near the top of his game just three weeks ago in Las Vegas, defeating the current national 1-Wall finalist, the current world 1-Wall champion, and the current 1WallBall world champion en route to the final. Dave was planning on a comeback to the R48 tour early next year, where he would have been competitive with any player on the circuit. For those of us who knew him well and even those who just watched and read about him, this is an impossible loss to accept.

If you have a favorite Dave Chapman story, please share by emailing us.  We will read (if granted permission) your story on-air on ESPN during the Tucson Memorial, where we plan to pay tribute to Chapman and others:  info@wphlive.tv.

I have so many great memories with Dave. Here are a few of mine:

Dave and I started recognizing each other for the first time in 1989 at the national events, he was 13, I was 11. Despite seeing each other five or six times a year for the next five years, we never spoke and probably only made eye contact a few times. I traveled to New York City for the first time in 1994 to play in the prestigious New York Athletic Club tournament and Dave and I and the tournament director ended up being the only people at the courts in the late afternoon on the day before the tournament. It felt awkward because here is this guy I had seen for years but never acknowledged. The tournament director asked us to go to lunch, and with nothing else to do and no excuses to make, we went. We finally spoke and I can remember thinking, “Why did I wait so long to talk to him, he is the greatest!” We hung out all night, walking around New York City and watching basketball. We’ve been best friends ever since.

The first time Naty Alvarado Jr. beat Dave was in the winter of 1996 in Wheeling, WV at an invitational tournament. Immediately after losing, Dave grabbed his bag and screamed, “I’m driving home now, you coming?” I was on winter break from college and staying in Pittsburgh, 60 miles from Wheeling. Of course I said yes, and rode 14 hours with Dave and Jimmy London in the middle of the night. I kept reminding Dave of the parade Naty was going to receive when arriving back home, complete with a float and confetti with the whole town of Hesperia celebrating. He would get so mad every time I mentioned it. Dave and Jimmy ate Taco Bell four times in 14 hours and I remember thinking, wow Dave is going to start putting on some serious weight. Dave was about 175 pounds at the time. We got back to Springfield, MO and he told me that I was only thin because I was 18 and that I’d be fat in five years. This was after he ate Taco Bell four times in 14 hours and I nibbled on apples! That was Dave.

Dave was like one of those shows that always leaves you with a cliffhanger, it’s so exciting, but you never really find out the whole story. He would give you just enough to leave you wanting more, while always holding back enough to keep you guessing. I’m sure that was intentional. Dave was the always multi-tasking, usually driving, texting, talking on the speaker phone, and talking to the people in his car. When he was at his house, he’d be texting, emailing, online gambling, and hosting a minimum of 15 people per day. It doesn’t surprise me that at least 20 people in the last 24 hours have told me that they spoke to Dave everyday. He spoke to six people at once all day!

When I was living with Dave we had a very unfriendly pool match, complete with heckling, intentional distracting, rules arguments, and screaming insults at each other and when it was over we weren’t speaking and I went and picked up a UHaul. I loaded all of my stuff, including my 100-pound bed frame and he came out to the driveway after the UHaul was filled and said, “So you’re leaving then?” Just the tone of his voice changed my mind and he and his group of 15 friends that were at the house helped me unload all of my stuff. Dave carried the hangers. We had so many cold wars, partly due to being upset with one another and partly to see who would crack first. Whether it was one hour or four days, whenever one of us spoke the cold war ended instantly and we were back to being best friends. I’m going to miss him so much.

 

Dave’s greatest quality might have been bringing people together and making his friends your friends. Most of the time you meet your friend’s friends, you have dinner and never see them again. Dave’s friends became your friends, even outside of him. Dave invited me to stay at his house in 2005 and told me then #5 pro Emmett Peixoto would be there as well. Emmett and I became great friends immediately and still are, all because of Dave connecting us. So many of Dave’s friends became my friends in my time living in St. Louis with Dave and years later, our friendships have endured. I also became friends with so many great people across the world because of Dave, friendships I cherish to this day. All of Dave’s friends had one thing in common, a deep loyalty and affection for Dave and wanting only the best for him. His friends were as unique as him, and fiercely protective of Dave and his legacy. Dave created friendships with not just me and his dozens of close friends, but with so many people he connected from around the world. So many of us will be connected for the rest of our lives because of Dave.

Perhaps my favorite and most special memory with Dave was at my wedding in January of 2010. My wife and I decided to elope to Vegas about four weeks prior to our wedding and leaked the news to a few of our good friends, Dave being one of them. Dave being Dave, acted as though he wasn’t enthused, as he always did. He never wanted you to think he was excited about something. He even said that he’d probably be in Vegas that weekend but probably couldn’t make the wedding. We arrived to the wedding chapel on Saturday night, meeting our eight friends. Dave was there, waiting for everyone as we arrived. After the ceremony, my wife and I had no plans and no idea what we were going to do. Dave motioned to me to head outside. Two stretch limousines were waiting in the parking lot. Dave opened the door for my wife and I and ushered the rest of the group into the other limo. He told the driver where to go and we were off. We arrived at one Vegas’ nicest restaurants inside the Wynn, where Dave had arranged a beautiful dinner for everyone to celebrate our wedding. My wife and I never saw a bill. Following the dinner, we did a little gambling and headed to the hottest nightclub in Vegas and were immediately ushered into the VIP section. We had one of the most fun and memorable experiences of our lives, all because of Dave. Dave never mentioned it, never asked to be thanked, he just did it because he loved us and that’s what he did for those he loved.

Dave Chapman was an icon and a living legend that not only changed the sport of handball, but changed so many lives through his friendship. Handball will never be the same without him, and neither will anyone’s life that knew him. Dave was simply the greatest. We’ll never forget you Dave and we’ll miss you forever.

The WPH will pay tribute to Dave Chapman, Ben Manning and all our handball friends that have passed over the past year and years before them at the Tucson Memorial, November 10th-12th, 2017.  The Tucson Memorial Trophy will have Chapman & Manning’s Name engraved for prosperity and will be on display in a private section of the facility so you and yours can come pay respects and help us celebrate the lives of these amazing champions.

Submit your favorite Chapman story and we will read it live on the air on ESPN during the Tucson Memorial:  info@wphlive.tv.  WPH Film Crews will be scouring the crowd to ask players for their fondest memories as the WPH will play back all clips live.


First emailed submission:

Steve Sobel Writes:

When I became friends with David, he was retired the first time from handball.   After the first time I met him, I used Google and YouTube to find out more about his handball history.   Honestly I couldn’t believe Dave was this great athlete cause he didn’t look like the typical athlete and walked so stiff all the time, I had to read more to believe it.    David and I became great friends and I never pushed him to return to the sport.   After a couple of years, and he decided to make his comeback, he told me of the match they were setting up at the Detroit Athletic Club.  He wanted me to join him and told me he would have to tell everyone I was his trainer/manager in order for me to get into the club and stay with him there.

Leading up to the match, I found the handball forum online and hoped to get some action on the event.   I would make posts, people would respond and then I would text David asking who is this guy and what should I say next so I didn’t look like an idiot to the handball community.   I learned some of the game’s terms and phrases and rules and figured I was ready to join Dave in Detroit.

We fly to Detroit and I still in my life have not seen Dave play one game of handball in my life, hit even one handball in my life.  Leading up to his preparation for this comeback event, Dave did it on his own, playing challenge matches against the local area St Louis players but I guess I never thought about going.  He even went to a nearby prison to play someone who was locked up.

So we arrive Friday night at the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), get checked in and then go down to the courts.  Dave Vincent had now turned this into a full fledged affair, with a lot of other Pro matches scheduled and stream of the event.   They had a Pro Am going on Friday night between all of these pros and the members of the DAC.   Chapman didn’t play in the Pro Am, instead he told me to get him a glass of wine from the service bar by the courts.  After a couple of glasses, he says let’s switch to beer.   As we were hanging out, watching some of the matches and socializing , Dave, I am now realizing, is the Michael Jordan of handball.   Every player, every person in the room coming up to meet him, wanting to spend time with him, telling him how great he looked, how happy they were he was there.  And every person, he introduces me as his trainer/manager.

The Pro Am matches end and the DAC athletic director and a few other players and us go out to dinner.   At dinner, David immediately orders a bottle of wine.  I’m sitting across from the athletic director and I can see his mind was spinning.   He looks over at me and says “so you are David’s trainer?”  I tell him yes and proceeds to ask me a series of questions that I bluff through, as I really don’t know what I am talking about.

The next day, we wake up and go get some breakfast in the club.  Then we head to the courts.  The matches have already started and David is the feature match of the day.   Finally It is Dave’s turn.   I’m finally gonna see this greatness for myself.  Dave gets into the court and is just taking the handball and throwing it against the wall and catching it.  Changes hands but still just throwing and catching.   I’m thinking, what is he doing?  Is he gonna hit the ball?

In comes his opponent, Emmett Peixoto, who I believe was the #3 ranked player in the world.   Emmett is young.  Emmett is lightning fast.  Emmett is shredded, 6 pack, in great shape.  He is hitting the ball hard off the walls, chasing after it, jumping off the side walls, spinning around and hitting every thing as he warms up.  And then there is Dave, he is finally hitting the ball, but nothing to crazy hard.  He seems to just be getting a feel for the court, for it all.   I think to myself, this is gonna be the longest plane ride home back to St Louis.  What am gonna say on the plane to make him feel better after he loses to Emmett?  What do you say to a guy that didn’t lose many matches of handball in his career?

So the match starts and I get to see it even though again I still don’t fully know 100% of what I am viewing.  David is controlling the game.  He is basically standing in the middle of the court, while Emmett runs all around him chasing after the ball.  And David, with what appears to be eyes behind his head, as soon as Emmett gets one step out of position, puts the ball to where even with his speed Emmett can’t get to it.  David wins the first game 21-7.  Along the way, Emmett has cursed at himself, thrown his goggles and was obviously flustered.   The match wasn’t for any prize money.   It was for pride and David was certainly showing why he is the GOAT.

After a short break, the second game begins.  With David winning in the second game maybe by 8-2 and I know the first game was no fluke and it was inevitable David was gonna win again, I reach out and tap the athletic director who was sitting in front of me on the shoulder.  I ask him “so what do you think?”   He replied “unfucking believable”.  I respond as any great trainer/manager would “I told you there was nothing to worry about”.    David won the second game 21-5.

I saw David play many times after that, traveling to other events with him as his trainer/ manager.   But I will always remember the first time I saw him play with the same long, drawn out specifics I have given to you reading this here.  It was something to see.  His game was on another level compared to other players I got to witness over the last 10 or so years.   As his friend, personally I didn’t care if he had ever played another game of handball again when I met him.  I did see how happy he was when playing.  How he loved the competition.  How he loved the people.   I thought to myself, as any good friend would, if my friend is happy then life is good.   RIP Dave.  Still can’t accept you are gone.

I want to thank the handball community for accepting me and to many of you that I now call friends.  As others have said, that’s what David did.  He brought friends together.   That might have been his greatest gift.

– Steve ‘Watchez’ Sobel
Trainer/Manager to David Chapman


Bill Kennedy Writes: 

I was saddened to learn of David’s passing this morning.

We got him to Saco, Maine to do a clinic, which I covered and wrote a story for Handball Magazine.  A few weeks after that,  I arranged a clinic by him at a club in Fairfield, NJ.

We got to know each other a lot better by doing that.  And I got to play doubles with him as my partner. I think that is the only time I ever have had a national champion as my doubles partner.  I have been on the court with players like John Bike Jr., Vern Roberts, John Sabo, Jimmy Jacobs, but never on the same team.  That was an honor for me.

Obviously, I was impressed with the way he played handball.  I think he almost always knew where his opponent would hit the ball, before the opponent knew that.  His handball intelligence was through the roof.

I have been to handball clinics, mostly as an observer.  By far, David’s clinics were the best I ever attended.  Most clinics are about speakers.  David spoke, but he had players doing all kinds of things to improve their swing, accuracy, and approach.

This is a big loss for handball, and I offer you condolences for your loss.  Both of my sisters have lost daughters, so I am somewhat familiar with a parent losing a child.  As parents, we do not want to outlive our children.

David Chapman — may he rest in peace.

Bill Kennedy


‪Matt Weiss Writes:

A fitting tribute to your best friend and a straight-up legend, Dave. You can use this as a remembrance if you want:

When David Chapman came to Pittsburgh several years ago, he was trying to make his living full-time playing and teaching handball. He had made some excellent instructional videos and was giving lessons, and ‪David Fink and Andrew Joseph arranged for me to take one of those lessons, and at a really nice discount. Still, I thought, $150 for an hour on the court for a handball lesson? I’d never taken a formal lesson in my life. I reminded myself, though, that I’d be getting an hour of concentrated time learning from the man who was, arguably, the greatest player of all time. A bargain, for sure.

But, like many people who met Dave Chapman, it was hard for me to square his reputation with the man standing in front of me. What’s that line from the Beatles song?… “I am the Eggman!” David Chapman, the most dominant handball player in history, looked like the Eggman, and his demeanor was as un-intimidating as his appearance. He shook my hand, got a few digs in at Fink, our mutual connection, and then we went on the court. Before we even got started, he said to me, “So you’re a history teacher.”

“I am.”

“I have a question–I bet you won’t know the answer.” He probably really wanted to bet, but I didn’t know he was a gambler. If I had, I might’ve gotten that lesson for free.

“Shoot,” I said, figuring this would be the only shot of his I’d be able to return.

“Who was Abraham Lincoln’s first vice-president?” He smiled expectantly.

“You must mean Hannibal Hamlin,” I said, and his mouth dropped open.

“Nobody ever gets that right!” he said. “I’ve asked dozens of people!”

I replied, “Have you asked dozens of history teachers?”

“A few,” he said. “You must be one of the good ones. Wow. Let’s get started.”

Friendly, for sure, but as a lifelong educator, I also recognize now that it was pure teaching genius. He must have known from David and Andrew that I was a below-average player, and probably figured, rightly, that I’d be intimidated just to be on the court with him. The first thing he did, before a ball hit a wall, was find a way to be impressed with me, or at least (had I gotten the question wrong) to show me he was as interested in what I did as I was in what he did (and good at it, too!).

And remember, this was the Muhammad Ali of our sport. This was LeBron. You might put somebody else above his name, but not without an argument, and his top priority as my teacher was to make sure I knew he was interested in me.

I was ready to learn and, man, did I ever. David took me through his warm-up, the one described by his friend Steve Sobel. We started with the basics–how to throw the ball. First right, then left. With almost anybody else, I might have thought, “when’re we gonna learn to play *handball?”, but I trusted him completely. I focused on my throws, working hard to mirror my right-hand form with my off hand. Dave gave me the perfect mix of space and advice, and soon we were working on shots and he started unlocking the way he saw the game and the court.

It was amazing. There were no esoteric secrets: It was all about positioning, anticipation, vision, patience and, at the right moment, smooth, fluid power delivered at just the right spot (about six inches from the floor). All you had to do was execute flawlessly, and there was the gap between Chapman and everybody else. Even those with the physical skills to reproduce his game (and I’m not one of them) lacked the mental discipline and the patience. David won more matches with his mind before the first serve, I’m sure, than any player in history.

All too soon, it was over (though we ran almost a half-hour overtime-Chapman giving away more his already-discounted time. No wonder he had trouble making a living at this, good as he was). David mentioned his instructional DVDs and encouraged me to buy some, and I had my checkbook out right away. He joked, in that trademark self-effacing way, that guys didn’t mind buying his videos because they knew their wives wouldn’t fall for the man on the screen, looking like he did. Sure enough, when I excitedly showed my wife the video she said, “That’s the world champion? Hmm…”

“Looks can be deceiving,” I told her, and left it at that.

And my game improved instantly. Everyone I played with noticed. My shots were sharper, my positioning better, and my back wall shots, which usually ended up coming off the back wall themselves and giving my opponents an easy kill or pass, started rolling out.

But I never got good. I had too many other athletic interests that didn’t involve a gym membership, and when I hurt my back playing one-wall, I decided that I’d focus on those. Reading about Dave, though, makes me want to get back to the game. That’s one thing we do have in common on the court: Like him, since I started to play at 13, I’ve stepped away many times. I’ve always come back though. Maybe I will again.

I met ‪David Chapman once, but like my friend Fink says, once you meet him, you don’t forget him. He was the humblest champion I ever met or could imagine. He knew who Hannibal Hamlin was. He was a mensch. He was the Eggman. He was the GOAT.

Say hello to Jimmy and Vic, David. Have a beer or five with Haber. If you get a chance, Dave, say hello to my first teacher in this game, my grandfather, Dave Pomerantz. He’ll be the handsome gent with the stiff back and the big smile punching the serves up to the ceiling with his left hand, over and over. I know you’ll treat him the same way you treat those other legends and the same way you treated me.

You’ll be as welcome up there as you’ll be missed down here.

-Matt Weiss


Emmett Peixoto Writes:

I have so many memories with Dave it is difficult to choose only a couple to share. The first time I ever saw Dave was when I was 13 years old at the Junior Nationals in Orlando, FL. Dave and David Fink were playing a highly competitive Ping-Pong match with their just their hands. I am not sure who won. I enrolled in a fantasy handball camp in Tucson in the summer of that year. I got to play one-on-one with Dave for a few minutes. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was in awe of him and had a hard time even talking around him. A fact he liked to tell my wife. He was my handball idol. When I was sixteen, I entered another handball camp Dave threw in Vegas with his father. I bet Dave $100 I could get a point off of him. He gave me 20 points and the serve; he only scored four points before I got to 21. He was not happy. A year later I had to play Dave in the first round of the four wall Nationals. He explicitly told me it was his goal to give me a donut in the first game. He played as hard as he could—diving, shooting, running down passes, and finally defeating me 21-0. He just smiled at me and told me he just wanted to get back at me for my point in Vegas. I couldn’t believe it.

I started developing a friendship with Dave when he invited me to his house to train with him when I was 18. We played handball, went to the Cardinals’ game, went out on the town every night. I just couldn’t believe that my idol wanted to be my friend. It is a very unique and rare experience. We became very close from that time forward.

One time I asked Dave to tell me the secret of handball. Since he was the master he must know the secret. He thought about it for a minute, looked right at me, and told me, “no surprises.” I said, “what?” He just repeated it. I have spent way to long analyzing that sentence.

Dave came out to Watsonville to play in our annual three-wall tournament one year. Dave and I spent the entire night prior to our semifinal match against Jose Hernandez and Eddie Chappa in bed talking and throwing a pillow up toward the ceiling to see who could get closest to the ceiling without hitting the ceiling. At about four in the morning, we looked right at each other and both said, “donuts!” He started laughing that giggly high-toned laugh of his and we drove straight to the donut shop. We ended up losing to Eddie and Jose in a tiebreaker, after being up 9-2. After the match, without taking off his handball clothes or gloves, Dave had me drive him straight to the airport (which was an hour away), telling me the entire ride that because we lost he deserves to be at the airport all night sitting standby in his sweaty clothes.

Dave and I won two Four-Wall National Doubles Titles together. We were undefeated for nearly five years. We also made it to the semifinals of the 1-Wall Nationals, and the finals of the Three-Wall Nationals as a team. We were planning on playing in the Four-Wall Nationals in 2018. We competed against each other and trained with each other numerous times in all forms of handball. When we were together we always found a way to compete against each other in something.

One time Dave came to stay with me in New York. I had rented a rundown studio apartment for the month so I could train for the 1-Wall Nationals. Dave stayed with me for 2 weeks. Just for context, (as some of you may know) Dave was a bit of a germ freak. When I first arrived at the apartment, I noticed it didn’t have a mattress. I walked the streets of NY until I found a mattress sitting on the street. I paid a homeless man to help me carry it up to my apartment. Who knows where this mattress had been. During that same stay (keep in mind that Dave preferred to stay at the nicest hotels), we were in bed sleeping one night and all of a sudden we heard a strange rustling sound coming from the kitchen. We both tried to ignore it. At the same time, both of us sat up curious and terrified of the sound coming from the kitchen. We finally turned on the lights and realized it was a mouse eating our half-eaten back of potato chips. We had no idea what to do. He stayed on the bed with his hands up completely grossed out. I waited until the mouse was in the bag, grabbed the bag, and threw it out the window. We both felt bad and relieved at the same time. I still can’t believe he continued to stay in the apartment after that. After he flew home, I decided to tell him about the mattress. His response was priceless. “Oh no, no no no no.” It was great.

I can’t tell you how much Dave’s friendship has meant to me over the years. When I heard of his passing the first thing I wanted to do was call him and talk to him about it. I could envision his response, his tone of voice, his laugh, and his ability to turn any tragic and frustrating event into a comedy. He, Dave Fink, and I have spent so much time together we adopted so many of the same mannerisms and sayings. In fact, the last time we were all together we spend several minutes letting my wife know who got what saying and mannerism from whom. I can clearly picture his reactions, his walk, his voice, his way of being and talking, his smile. I have known Dave first as an idol, as a coach and mentor, and finally as one of my best and most cherished friends. I loved him. I am going to miss him until the day I die. I am just so grateful that I told him several times how much he meant to me. He knew it. I only wish we could have had many more memories together.


Howie Eisenberg Writes: 

Disbelief and shock on David Chapman’s death. I knew him since he was 14 and watched him progress from a precocious junior to a great champion. He was an astute student of the game from an early age learning the basics and gleaning the nuances and subtleties from other champions as well as whomever might add to his knowledge and technique. Together with his own insights David created a unique style of play that transcended his own considerable natural ability that prevailed over others who may have been stronger, hit harder, were faster. He had ultimate and justified confidence in himself in anything he did. David Chapman was a winner in every sense of the word. Way beyond that David was an intelligent fun loving guy with strong beliefs that he expressed in his low key often humorous way. It was my extreme privilege to know him and compete with and against him and be his friend.

Poignant memories of David: When he was 14, while swimming with Fred, they asked me if I would show them how to bodysurf. I did, but little did they know that they were learning from the world’s stupidest bodysurfer whom some years later tried to come in on the white water of a wave that had already broken and was catapulted onto the bottom almost breaking my neck.

A couple of years later when David had just won the national 4 wall open we played a 3 wall money match. My thinking was that despite my being in my 50s, I hit harder than this kid, shoot better, serve better and it will be no contest. I was right it was no contest. I had no chance. He got those serves back and when I killed from deep he would practically get to the front wall before the ball with his uncanny anticipation and dink in a re-kill while I was still following through. It made me wonder to Ed O’Neal who was watching if David read minds.

An extraordinary characteristic of David was that despite his unparalleled success in the game at a very early age, he was always open to and actually seeking the benefit of others’ knowledge and experience to get better. This was the case when during a timeout at double match point against a formidable opponent, he sought my suggestion on what serve to hit. It was especially gratifying to me when he hit a perfect low reverse to the right wall that elicited a setup that he flattened to win the match. This quest to get better was manifested when David as champion nearing the peak of his domination spent several weeks in Tucson to be the recipient of the great Fred Lewis’ knowledge taking lessons from the master. It was also in evidence when a young David was sitting in a bar with Paul Haber and you could almost see him separating the wheat from the chaff as Paul expostulated on nuances of the game between expletives. Much later David did not stand on his laurels when asking my advice about 1-wall strategy and tactics.

I had more losses underestimating DC, betting against him and Doug Glatt in 3 wall against Billy Archival and Danny Saenz who looked like a much stronger team but were taken down by David. It wasn’t until years later while watching DC take apart the incredibly talented Vince Munoz in the national open finals in Vegas that I finally got to (partially) understand and appreciate his genius. David not only anticipated the shots that Vince hit, but knew where Vince thought David would hit the ball on offense. So when Vince would anticipate and take a step 1 way or the other David would already be adjusting his shot somewhere else. Having to change direction after the ball was hit effectively nullified the catlike quickness of Munoz.

It was a losing proposition to bet against DC in anything. That included shooting baskets from the 3 point line in the gym at Michigan State in 2003 and in a game that I concocted between us in Vegas a few years ago. Since it was a 1 wall court that was 23′ wide and I could still serve sharp angles, even though I could no longer hit overhand I thought I might possibly win a 3 point game where I served all the time, rally scoring. Wrong once again. DC wins. Last May after DC half-jokingly challenged me in table tennis, I finally got to beat him in a game that I compete in frequently now and David played occasionally. However I wasn’t deluded into thinking that I actually got the better of this quintessential winner. I knew that he was just doing it for kicks and the bet was inconsequential.

I will miss seeing David’s genius on the court and his fun-loving good humor when we were together or on Face Book. RIP my friend who is gone way too early. My heartfelt condolences to Fred Chapman, David’s mom and siblings on this tremendous loss. I share your sorrow.

Howie Eisenberg


Jim Tamagni Writes:

I was laying in bed late one night watching the Jay Leno show. It was summer time and an Olympic year and Leno was doing his Jaywalking segment at Venice Beach. Jay always asks ambiguous questions to unsuspecting people usually getting dumb answers. Suddenly I jump up and realize he is interviewing Chapboy!! Jay’s question to David…”In the Olympics the pommel horse event..is it western or sidesaddle?” David quickly answers “sidesaddle”. As soon as I can contain my laughter I email David and ask him how can the smartest man in handball be the dumbest man on the Leno Show? David’s reply to me…”Leno didn’t give enough time to think about it and why did you of all people have to be the one to recognize me!”

Jim Tamagni


Mike Linnik Writes:

STORY #1
Had trained with Chapman. The night before we could see a fridge full of lean chicken and bottled waters – very clean. So we go out for lunch the next day after a hard training. His lunch consisted of a double cheeseburger, fries, cottage cheese as a side, and a large milk shake.  Dave never batted an eye, I was left wondering how a world class athlete eats and this was his secret?!
STORY #2
Anyone who trained with Dave would always receive a ride back to the airport …from our friend Jimmy London, that was Dave’s parting practical joke. Jim hit a few signs on the way to the airport, never stopping. Also when the light turned red, Jim would lean on the horn, even if there was 10 people in front of him.
STORY #3
From: David Chapman <smsudave@hotmail.com>
To: Sharon Linnik <sharonlinnik@yahoo.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 4:05 AM
Subject: Re: Mike Linnik’s 60th Birthday
If it wasn’t for me Mike Linnik would still be in the B division. He will like that Sharon
-Dave

STORY #4
From: David Chapman <smsudave@hotmail.com>
To: Sharon Linnik <sharonlinnik@yahoo.com
Sent: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 8:03 AM
Subject: Re: Mike Linnik’s 60th Birthday
It wud have to be next year.  I’m starting a new job and have two trips planned this year. Jan or Feb would work. Let me know if that works and I’ll come up with pricing. Although I’m not training anymore, Mike would be the exception.


Ron Lockwood Writes:

My David story happened at Los Cab when David was 11 and I was 32 and at the peak of my game (That’s not saying much). I had played for about 2 hours after work and was heading to get a cold one..There was David with his gloves on and those high top Converse sneakers that were almost as big as him. He asked if I would play him a game and I couldn’t refuse this cute little kid. We started playing and I quickly got up 6-0. I thought to myself “You gotta take it easy on this kid”. Bad choice ! Almost like a switch flipped he started diving and digging out every shot I made. I saw the bottoms of those sneakers a lot ! I noticed that he wasn’t just digging the shots he was hitting them where I had to run my butt off to retrieve em’. Now I’m running out of gas fast and he’s just warming up ! To make a short story long, he out scored me 21-3 from that point ! Final= 21-9

As we got off the court I thought to myself again “You just got your ass whooped by an 11 year old”
Then I went and got that cold one!

We’re gonna miss you David….We really will Ron Lockwood


Naty Alvarado Jr Writes:

DC, the passing of one of the greats….

This past Wednesday morning at 8:35 AM, I first heard the sad news from a voicemail my my Sister, Lupe Bike left me and then a text from my Nephew, John Bike. My wife and I had just landed in Seattle waiting to connect for a flight to Anchorage, Alaska. My first reaction was an unanswered disbelief then all could do was think of David’s Father, Fred Chapman. Fred’s love of his son was almost as impressive as David’s prowess on the court. Fred’s love and competitive spirit was always present for David. If you ever had the opportunity to sit with Fred while David was playing you immediately became is anxious as Fred. With every shot, Fred would react as if he were in the court playing. Fred would grab your arm, motioning with his body nervously tightening. His speech interrupted by a great retrieve or wicked back-wall rollout. I only sensed a Fathers admiration for the mastery of his sons play.

My relationship with David was one of a distant respect for one another. I first met Dave at the Long Beach Athletic Club in the early 80’s. He was always in handball attire with a racquetball in hand. Like most kids during tournaments, the empty courts were the giant 4-walled guardians for players kids while the adults played their matches. My sister and I played a game or two of Big ball with David. My sister and I may have played our first official handball game that day and played a fun spirited game of cutthroat. I know my Sister and I annoyed David that afternoon. We didn’t know the rules or whose turn it was to hit the ball. We just played to play, not caring of the outcome. David was different, very focused, but warming up to us because we were there learning about Handball, and he no one else to beat.

As time passed we would cross paths at local tournaments in Southern California in the early 90’s. We rarely spoke, only doing the standard wave or handshakes. Mainly due the fact that he was in the Open Division, while I was cutting my teeth in the other divisions. It wasn’t until 1992 we had our life changing talk. His partner Jaime Parades was unable to play with David in the 1992 Lansing US Nationals Pro Doubles. I can’t remember if David or Fred sought me out to partner up knowing I was only playing in the Pro-Singles only. We spoke of zero strategy and had no idea if we had a team chemistry. David and I never discussed the Handball record we would be breaking a few days later. Of all the events and matches played the Lansing Nationals tournament victory helped launch a much needed inner confidence with handball for me. I always be thankful for David for his play that week and allowing me to fly alongside him.

David was a part one of the most special days of my life. David accepted an invitation to be a Groomsmen for the festive wedding with my wife, Kerrie. More then 15 years later on the eve of my wedding we entered a handball court with a racquetball with nothing on the line. David, John Bike, and my Uncle Leo Duarte played good spirited Handball late into the evening, all the while laughing and yelling much like my the first encounter with David at the Long Beach Athletic Club. That will be the life video of David I will forever remember. The youthful, centered, and driven child who wanted to be considered one of the best to play our great game.

I always be thankful for David as a true friend and as a competitor.

Rest In Peace now David…


David Vincent Writes:

Dave Chapman took me to a Stevie Nicks concert in St. Louis (circa 2008). We were being stalked by Jimmy London (…who incidentally didn’t have a ticket but he knew the concert was at the University). DC came and got me at Kevin James Pettus’ house in a new Mercedes convertible SL 550. This car had everything, to include a $160,000 price-tag. In typical fashion, DC wanted to go 140 mph with the top down (if you’ve ever had a convertible, just going 80 mph is a struggle, as the sound, wind, weather take over). We hit the freeway and immediately lost Mr London. We got to the venue, valet-parked and ran across the street and waiting for us was Jimmy (like he had been there for hours). Chapman looked at me and said, “How’d the [expletive] did he beat us here?” Then he giggled that funny high-pitched giggle, before telling Jimmy that he, “….needs to slow down. You’re gonna get in an accident.”

I was thinking, “Jimmy needs to slow down…..wha…wha…what is happening here??” Oh the hypocrisy of it all.

The concert ends and we step outside to see a waiting Jimmy, who asks DC where we were going. Chapman giggled again [as if to point out Jimmy’s persistence] before telling Jimmy a name of a nightclub in downtown STL.

We were now going to go see one of Chapman’s all-time best buds, drummer, Justin Gabossi’s band, just a few miles down the road. We got back into the car and the race was on. Clearly we left Jimmy in the dust, but upon arrival at the nightclub and just before getting in line to pay the cover charge, there was ole Jimmy again (waiting for DC to get him in the door). DC said, “You gotta be [expletive] kidding me, Jimmy?….”  DC invited him in and we got a table. DC spent the next 3 hours trying to convince Jimmy to get up on stage and dance. Finally Jimmy climbed the steps, got on stage and immediately got kicked out of the nightclub. Feeling bad, DC paid the tab and left so that Jimmy wouldn’t be alone outside.

Once outside, DC lectures Jimmy, “I told you not to listen to everything I tell you Jimmy. Now we are all standing outside and it’s cold.” Jimmy giggles that high-pitched giggle that he stole from Chapman (or was it vice versa) and we go our separate ways. This was approx 10 years ago.

DC loved to drive fast, loved to spoil himself, loved to be competitive, loved to mentor and be in charge, but he also had a huge heart. He knew he provoked Jimmy into getting thrown out of the nightclub, so he himself left to make sure his friend would be okay and to center the Earth from the Karma he created.

Rest in Peace Big DC.  I want to share the Kansas City Hooters, Krispy Kreme or New Orleans stories, but only with your approval.  Give me a sign!

-DV


Jessica Peixoto Writes: 

Dave was my husband’s mentor. He was his best friend. I had heard hundreds of stories of Dave before I first met him. I knew he was a prodigy, a legend on the handball court. But from the moment Dave and I met, none of that mattered. It’s not that I didn’t care about all that; it just didn’t matter.

We clicked instantly.

He had a ridiculous inappropriateness to him, his dry, sarcastic sense of humor meshed perfectly with my gullible nature. I loved to listen to his stories, his absurd assessments of people, places, things…his perspective was truly unique. We bonded over our love of Fleetwood Mac and the fact that we had the same favorite song by them, our freakishly clean, germ-a-phobe natures, and our love for my husband. Dave wanted to include me in on every inside joke he shared with Emmett. He wanted me to have been a part of it all. His eyes lit up as his stories about his adventures with my husband unfolded. He loved that he couldn’t faze me, no matter how jaw-dropping the story he told.

We drove around and Dave tried to impress me by using the voice-activated features on his car. They didn’t work properly but Dave insisted they always did, all the while with the car ignoring his voice commands and doing something completely different than what he was instructing it to do.

One time I was hitting the ball around the handball court (completely a novice) while he played a match against Emmett, and Dave came in just to give me instruction. I didn’t ask him for advice; he just paused his game with Emmett and came in and worked with me. That’s just who he was.

We stayed with him for several days and towards the end of that visit, Dave gave me several of his prized jerseys and instructed me to wear them to bed every night. After our first meeting, we texted and talked frequently. We quickly developed our own friendship, which he and Emmett were both proud of.

We never saw eye to eye politically and often had heated political debates over text and Facebook. He always ended our discussions prematurely by saying something absurd to make me laugh…And then the discussion would just end. Always with a joke. He loved to give me a hard time, messing with me by unfriending me on Facebook and then, once I texted him and asked why we weren’t friends, he would tell me how offended he was that it had taken me two weeks to realize it.

In fact, the morning Emmett and I found out he had passed, my immediate response was to turn over and text him to let him know people were saying ludicrous things about him and that he needed to set everything straight immediately. He didn’t respond. I opened up Facebook and went to his page, and only then realized that he had unfriended me in his game to see how long it would take me to notice.

Dave was my first handball friend. He had so much light in him, so much life, it’s still difficult to believe that light is gone. I can hear his laugh, hear his voice, hear the plans we had just made the day before he died. Plans to come out here to meet our daughter. I’m thankful to Dave for being my husband’s best friend for so long, for introducing him to Dave Fink, for inspiring him both on and off the court, and for telling me stories about Emmett and how he was as a kid. I loved Dave and I’m so thankful that I got to know him. Not just the handball player, but who Dave Chapman was.

There was nobody like Dave. There never will be.


Portrait of Excellence – David Chapman

By Glenn T. Hall

In the era of power hitters, speed and kill shots he focused on none of these. Dave kept the ball just out of reach, angled away from his opponent with hooks that frustrated all. That is not to say he did not kill the ball but it was not when the opponent expected. He dominated the era with slow deliberate and exacting game and brought to handball a new level not seen before.

In David’s junior years of play everyone saw a new emerging talent. He won nearly all junior events but stood out because he was winning national open titles during high school, and dominated pro ball during his college years. One year playing Ken Ginty in the Open 4 wall finals (not the pros) I believe David was but 14 and had used a soft lob serve from the front right box to the rear left corner using a reverse which rarely hit the rear wall. It offered Ken virtually no offensive or defensive return. Ken had no answer to serve and was soundly defeated in under 10. For those who remember, Ken Ginty was schooled by some of the greatest champions of our sport. David has achieved that status of “greatest” in our sport too.

It is truly a shame when someone so young leaves us and sympathies to his family and friends are heartfelt and abundant. The loss is especially painful because he was so young. Yet, we should celebrate David’s accomplishments as other great people, although tragically passed away young, are celebrated for their accomplishments. St. Francis of Assisi passed at 45 having founded many orders and is known as the patron saint of animals. Joan of Arc inspired the French to drive out the British and died at 19. These and others who have died young left a legacy which overshadowed their short time with us. In our world of Handball, David transformed our game and assured his legacy. On a personal note, he was often quoted as identifying that he had only one coach-his dad Fred.

David thanks for the memories-you made our game better!


Rob Bell Writes: 

When I heard the new of David’s passing I was in shock and disbelief. The shock spurs from the fact that he was one of the greatest handball players. Not only was he the greatest but he was so young. For me the heart wrenching fact of his passing is that he was someone I knew personally. I shared chicken wings with him while we chatted. I was on the court with him while told me how to hit a perfect back wall shot. He appeared to be a handball all-star, but was a down to earth guy that I got to know. The first time I saw him, I could never believe I would be associated with the great one. My dad brought me to the Big C athletic club for my first tournament. During the 3 ½ hour drive to the bay area from Reno my dad told me stories of the greatest players. The list included Rick Christensen, Paul Haber, Naty Alvarado Sr., Vern Roberts, Terry Muck, and many more. When he told me about Dave Chapman he described him as the smartest player of them all. His reputation was that of a handball prodigy. He was the star player at the Concord pro stop. He dismantled the competition and made a lasting impression on me when I was 13.

As a student of the game I obsessed over the sport of handball. When I was playing handball with Dad and the local Reno handball players I would beg them to play one more game before they popped open the beers. When I wasn’t playing handball, I was reading the handball magazine and watching videos of handball. I was mesmerized by Chapman’s flat rollouts off the back wall. I couldn’t believe he could bend so low. I tried to figure out how he could be so collected on the court. When I got frustrated, I made mistakes. Not Chapman. He left me confused as to how a player could be so smart.

After years of wishing I could be as good as the great one I had the opportunity to go to The Chapman Experience. With the help of my parents and grandparents I was on the plane to LA. Dave Chapman was waiting for me and some other junior players at the airport. I arrived at the famed Los Cab with people I had only seen on videos. Emmett Peixoto, Dave Fink and Dave Chapman were the instructors. My roommate was a one wall player from New York, Tyree Bastidas. The days of instruction from such great players improved me from a B player to an A player almost immediately. During the week, Dave and I shared some hot wings, and I was able to talk about my frustrations with not having other junior player to play with in Reno. He gave me some great advice. He said the reason he was so smart was because he grew up playing the 80-year-olds at his club. Hearing that from the greatest player gave me a lot of confidence. He had so much knowledge of handball, but his passion for the game was what made his stories interesting. That wasn’t even the best lesson I learned that week. The camaraderie that Dave had with all the juniors impacted me greatly. Dave had so much love for the game but even more love for the players. I think he would rather be at a restaurant sharing a meal than in a tiebreaker in the finals. The loss of a great handball player hurts, but the players of this sport are like a family, and the loss of a handball family member hurts more.

I will end with what I think is a comical story. I was in the finals of the A division and I could not figure out what serve to hit. I was hitting a good left side hard serve but it seemed to be returned easily off the back wall. When I served to the right it was a set up. This was my first A finals so I wanted this win more than anything. During a timeout in the first game I texted Dave and asked him what I should do. I went back in there and tried to serve the hardest lowest serve I could but it would still come off the back wall. I ended up losing the first game. I checked my phone and didn’t see anything. I went into the second game demoralized and couldn’t figure out what I needed to change. After I lost, I got a text from Dave that said to serve a slow lob and that he knew I would win. Even though I had already lost I told him thanks for the advice and that I would try that out. I will never forget my Chapman Experience.


Rodney Fink Writes:

I MISS DAVID

I don’t want to brag, but I was David Chapman’s mentor.   Not for handball, but for women (even though I am clueless myself).   Earlier this year,  David sent me a text with the attached photo of a watch I gifted to him a few years back.  “Watch test.  I’m bringing it out of retirement since Trump is pres and you bought it from trump tower” was David’s message.    Ahh,  the watch test!    It works like this:   You approach an attractive lonely lady in a bar and ask her to identify the person in the hologram.   If she responds  “Santa” or “Herman Munster”,  she gets one (1) point.   When  told the correct answer is Albert Einstein and responds “Who’s that?”,  she gets nine (9) points— a perfect 10!  Drinks all around.   David absolutely loved the watch test, so I parted with my favorite prop because I loved my good friend.     Also, I owed David for carrying me to the 1995 Hood River PROAM DOUBLES “NATIONAL TITLE” over the likes of John Bike, Naty, JR and Tyler Hamel.  (NOTE: The other “sugar daddy” partners had too much pride to get out of the way of every single shot).     It is these glorious memories and so many more of a man for whom I will always have deep admiration and incredible love that enables our handball family to soldier on without our great champion.    Rodney Fink


Dennis Uffer Writes:

First of all, like everyone else, I feel terrible about David’s passing. It is a big loss for our fraternity.

I have two stories, one, many years ago, I was staying at the hotel next to the Bob Evans on Reynolds Rd, in Maumee. It was Sunday and playing in the finals early afternoon wanted to get some breakfast early. The restaurant was packed with one chair left at the counter. Sat down next to David and after some small talk, I asked the legend what made him such a better player than anyone else. David said when he feels he has a weak shot, he will go on the court and hit that shot a thousand times, then he no longer has that weak shot.

Second story, in the Lagrange 3 wall and at the party in the bar Incahoots.
David said part of his new training, he was doing arm wrestling, so someone said, “David, armwrestle Dennis!” So my claim to fame, I beat David, but it was at arm wrestling!
Stay well, I’m at home recovering from knee replacement, ouch! But my memories of Chapman will help me recover!


Photo by Keith Thode for USHA (1 Wall Nationals)

Benjamin Brettner Writes:

After the initial shock and sadness of David Chapman’s passing, I have some fond memories and recollections I’d like to share. While he was a revered 4-wall champion, he visited the Seaside handball courts in Coney Island whenever his busy schedule allowed.
 
It was 5 or 6 years ago when I first saw him play bin the open doubles division in the USHA National 1-wall handball Championships. There was one play during the match, one signature moment, that defined for me his greatness and left a forever impression. He was lying flat on the ground, horizontally, inside the short line. His opponent drove the ball directly at him. In an amazing display of reflexes and athleticism he returned the ball.
 
It was during that same tournament that he displayed his kindness to me, when I went to the store for him and came back weighed down with items, sweating heavily from the humidity, he said “Ben, sit down. It’s very hot. You look tired.” Those words of concern meant a lot.
 
I also played some big ball doubles with him and I count that amoung the highlights of my many years of playing.
 
R.I.P. David Chapman

Albert Apuzzi Writes:
I first met David Chapman when he came to play in the USHA National 1-wall Championships. Dave, John Bike Jr. & Naty Alvarado Jr. stayed with us.
Somewhere in the middle of the night I heard footsteps and voices on the roof. When I went upstairs to investigate I found Dave & John smoking cigars and drinking wine………. Yes there is more to this story but at the moment I’ll only add that he did go through a lot of effort and made things right.
We kept in touch since then. Congratulating each other on good victories or meeting whenever he passed through NYC.  DC loved interacting with the 1-wall crowds and putting on a show. When he gambled it was never about the money. Always about the challenge.
I doubt handball will ever find someone to replace him. It’s a true loss.

Jennifer Hinman Writes:

The first REAL time I had any exchange with Dave was at the Simple Green tournament in 2008.  The galley was full and I did not have room to watch the match.  Upon going outside, Vincent was set up in his booth with Dave C broadcasting the main event.  I stopped to watch on the little TV and listened to them.  All of a sudden Dave C yells “CRACK!!!”  Both Vincent and I looked at him with furrowed brows, but low and behold the very next serve was a crack serve.  Vincent laughed and added to the broadcast that Dave C called that one….
What no one knew
(who was listening) was that a man (slightly larger fellow) was sitting at the picnic table directly in front of the booth with some very significant “plumber’s crack”.  When we finally realized why Dave C said what he had said, (first we could not delete from our mind’s eye what we saw and second…) we could not stop laughing.
Tears were streaming from all eyes.
Poor Vincent was trying to keep his broadcast going but it was hilarious.  That was my first real introduction to Dave Chapman.
Dave and I remained close friends from 2008 until his passing.  The experiences we shared through the years will be memories that last a lifetime.  And now, they will need to last a lifetime. I got to know the man outside of the handball world and never identified him through his achievements in handball.  Of course his achievements were amazing – phenomenal.  But the most phenomenal part about Dave was just him being him.  His intelligence knew no bounds.  He had friends and connections around the world.  He made everyone feel that they were with greatness yet took the time to make everyone feel welcome. He could make you laugh no matter what was happening.  We could have just as much fun in a five diamond restaurant as we did in a dive bar throwing peanut shells on the ground.
The most memorable and significant part that lingers and that I will miss dearly, is Dave’s kindness and random contact.
He would not want sad stories, so I’ll end with the last phone call I received about a month before his passing.  He called and said, “You’re smart.  Do you have to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?  I’m having a disagreement here.  I said, “Well washing dishes before washing dishes will make them more clean.  BUT I said it does depend on the dishwasher model, the food on the plate, how long it sits before running the dishwasher, etc.”  He thanked me and said “I win” and we hung up.
He is and will be missed.
The world lost an amazing soul.
His closest friends lost the wonderful gift that the friendship was.