When Scooter Chapman was inducted into the Port Angeles High School Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 2018, HOF committee president Bruce Skinner noticed something remarkable.
“The inductees were from 1952 to 2011 — and Scooter had announced every one,” Skinner said.
Such is the vast breadth of Chapman’s career as “The Golden Voice of Port Angeles” — an unparalleled 70-year span that ended with his official retirement last week from radio station KONP-AM.
But don’t take that “r-word” too literally. Chapman is still emceeing events for Olympic Medical Center and working the PA at some Peninsula College games. I mean, when you’re only 87 years old, you’ve got to stay busy.
Maybe no one in the history of Port Angeles has stayed busier than Chapman, who is called by KONP operations manager Todd Ortloff “Mr. Community” and “truly iconic. … He’s so multigenerational in that he’s called games for kids of kids of kids. As soon as you say ‘Scooter,’ everyone in town says, ‘Oh, yeah. Scooter on the radio.’ ”
Chapman has been Scooter on the radio since he was a junior at Roosevelt High School (the predecessor to Port Angeles High). That’s when he started dabbling at KONP, sweeping floors and helping out Ralph Gallacci on the call of Port Angeles Roughrider football games in 1951.
“I’ve been working all these years with no contract,” Chapman said in a phone interview. “We didn’t sign contracts back in the old days, and I figured until they told me to leave I was going to come to work every day.”
Howard Chapman — nicknamed “Scooter” for the way he scooted around the floor as an infant — was born and raised in Seattle until his father got a job at an auto-parts store in Port Angeles. Scooter, who was in eighth grade, had been enamored with Leo Lassen, voice of the Seattle Rainiers, as a youngster. When the Chapmans landed a few blocks from KONP’s offices, that love of radio was further kindled, though Scooter’s initial goal was to be a baseball beat writer for a newspaper.
Chapman never did do that, but what he achieved in Port Angeles allowed him to touch so many more people. He landed full-time at KONP after a year studying journalism at the University of Washington (“I ran out of money”) and serving a stint in the army that ended in 1961.
Don’t ask him to pick a career highlight, “because every game I did on the radio was a highlight. There always highlight moments during the game, things that happened you didn’t think were going to happen.”
For seven decades Chapman was the play-by-play broadcaster for Port Angeles football and basketball games — the press box at Civic Field was named for him in 2017 — and he did games of Sequim High School and Peninsula College. He doesn’t know the exact number of games he’s called, only that it’s well in the thousands.
That doesn’t count the thousands of articles Chapman wrote during the 30 years he was simultaneously sports director at KONP and sports editor of the Port Angeles Evening News (and later the Peninsula Daily News).
Nor does it count the more than 2,000 games he officiated or umpired in a variety of sports (an occupation that ended in 2015 when Chapman fell off his porch and tore ligaments in both knees), or the 30-plus years he was assigning secretary for the Western Peninsula Umpires Association, or his long-running column in the Sequim Gazette, or the two decades he co-hosted the “Breakfast Show” on KONP (sometimes starting his shift at 5 a.m. after getting back at midnight from calling a road game the night before), or the numerous years he served as track announcer for the local stock car races, or years hosting the Duck Derby charitable event, or a parade here, a Salmon Derby there, or … well, this could go on all day. You get the picture.
As Chapman himself said, “If it’s an event around Port Angeles, I probably broadcast it.”
But Chapman’s legacy will always be his devotion to the local sports teams, both boys and girls. Sometimes, Chapman would ref a JV basketball game at Port Angeles, shower and then call the varsity game — and often write the newspaper account of the game. Even if he didn’t ref it, he loved to set up early and check out the JVs.
“It was a fun time watching the kids come up,” he said. “It got to be a career, just watching kids come up and play ball.”
Chapman was legendary for using the commercial breaks in the radio booth to bang out the newspaper story on his typewriter (evolving into laptop computers later in his career). Somehow he’d have the story ready to file when the final buzzer sounded.
“I was one of the first radio announcers to send a report on a state-tournament game in ’82 from Seattle on my ‘Trash 80,’ ” Chapman said proudly, using sports writers’ vernacular for the rudimentary, often-balky TRS-80 from Radio Shack.
On the way back from calling road games in Kitsap County he’d often stop at a favorite tavern, where a booth had been reserved. Chapman’s crew would enjoy a cold beverage while Scooter banged out his story on his Trash 80.
“Everybody loved us,” he said.
Everybody in Clallam County loves Scooter Chapman, it seems. He was honored on KONP all last week, and congressman Derek Kilmer praised Chapman on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. What has really moved Chapman, though, has been the outpouring of well-wishes he’s received from generations of athletes whose games he called.
“These last couple of days made me realize a lot of people appreciated what I was doing,” he said. “You usually don’t get that when you’re still alive.”
Chapman and his wife of 67 years, Loretta, raised four sons in Port Angeles. They have 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He never had any desire to leave for another job, because he loved the one he had. Chapman is in four Halls of Fame (including the WIAA’s), is a longtime elder and deacon of the First Presbyterian Church and a half-century member of the Port Angeles Lions Club. The word Kilmer used on the house floor was “legendary.”
It saddens Chapman that KONP has curtailed its coverage of prep sports, yet another offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic. He actually hasn’t called games in two years because the station wanted to protect his health. The truth is, Chapman says, he wouldn’t have retired now if there were still games to call on KONP.
“I’ve been working with high-school kids for 70 years of my broadcast career,” he said. “They always come back and tell you how much they enjoyed their name being on the radio and listening to me do their interview. The kids just aren’t getting that anymore.”
Ortloff foresees a day, as the pandemic recedes, when high-school coverage returns to their airwaves but adds, “Part of it is you can’t replace Scooter Chapman. … We’re not going to replicate it, certainly. You will never find another Scooter.”
That has become starkly evident, as Chapman begins his version of official retirement.
“You know, it’s staggering the breadth of what he’s done here just working at a little ol’ radio station and doing something as simple as calling basketball games,” Ortloff said. “But when you do it for 70 years, you make a lot of impact.”
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