Pitching A Tribute To A Teammate

Don Chapman
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April 25, 2007
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I heard about Don Ho’s untimely passing while driving to town - from, of all people, Don Robbs, who was broadcasting a UH baseball game at Fresno State on the radio. Ironic, because back in the days of the infamous Columbia Inn Roundtable All-Stars softball team, the pitching rotation was Don Ho, Don Robbs and Don Chapman ...

The thing I’ll always remember about Don Ho as a softball teammate was how down to earth he was - just one of the guys. And in his day, he was a pretty good athlete ...

(Note to Gene Kaneshiro: Eh, let’s get the gang back together, while we still can ...)

We’re proud to say that Don appeared on MidWeek‘s cover three times - originally on March 6, 1985, in the paper’s first year; with daughter Hoku on Oct. 20, 1999, and most recently with children from the Aha Punana Leo Hawaiian immersion school on Dec. 6 of last year…

As Jack Nicklaus once said of Arnold Palmer - “I don’t think anyone enjoys being themself more than Arnie enjoys being Arnie.” - I doubt that anyone enjoyed being himself more than Don ...

As talented as Don was as an entertainer, he also had a great talent for choosing good friends. I recall a story told by the late restaurateur Henry Loui, the guy I call my Chinese father, about “busting heads” of some tough guys who wanted to beef with Don when was he was just starting out in Waikiki. As I recall Henry saying, Don had flirted with one of their girlfriends from the stage ...

They remained friends over the years, and so when Don sang Kui Lee’s I’ll Remember You at Henry’s funeral in 1991, there was some extra feeling to it ...

And the Feb. 1, 1995, MidWeek cover story I wrote about Larry Mehau - second in a two-part series that dispelled any notion of Rick Reed’s “godfather” nonsense - includes a tale I’d first heard from Eddie Sherman, which Larry confirmed. During the ‘70s, in Don’s dressing room at the Polynesian Palace showroom on Lewers, with Eddie and Tommy Campos in attendance, a Mainland crime figure tried to extort protection money from Don, who was visibly perspiring with nervousness:

“Yeah, when Don got in trouble, I tried to take care of the problem,” Larry recalled. (They were pals from Kamehameha Schools days.) “I wouldn’t say Mafia, but he was with a Mainland crime faction. The guy said, ‘If you don’t like what’s going on, I have instructions, all I have to do is call the big boys on the Mainland.’ I handed him the phone: ‘OK, you better start calling, pally, because you in trouble here. If you looking for trouble, I’m gonna help you find it. So call whoever told you to come over here. And if your orders are to continue, I hope you can swim good. There’s no place for you to hide, and you’re going to have to swim a long way.’ They (organized crime) don’t like that kind of talk, But if they talk to you like that, what are you supposed to do? Eat it? B———-!”

And that was the end of that problem for Don ...

Hang loose forever, brother ...

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