Sam Khalifa was born on December 5th, 1963 in Fontana, California while his father was working on his Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside. During his youth, he relocated numerous times due to his father’s job, twice to the Middle East. At a young age, he moved to Alexandria, Egypt and a few years later at the age of 12 his family moved to Tripoli, Libya. In Libya, Sam truly developed a love for the game of baseball, playing on a sand field with the children of American businessmen employed by the oil companies in the surrounding area.
Sam’s mother, an American, was a native of Tucson, Arizona, and that is where Sam attended high school. He immediately became a dazzling athlete, both on the gridiron and the diamond. He was named the all-city quarterback by The Arizona Daily Star in 1982, the same year he led his baseball team to a state-championship title as their star shortstop. He was selected as the 7th-pick in the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was offered a $100,000 signing bonus.
He developed quickly as a player, and by 1985, Khalifa was on display at Three Rivers Stadium as the Pirates everyday shortstop, replacing the injured Johnnie LeMaster. He got off to a red-hot start, recording hits in six of his first eleven Major League at-bats. However, his time in the limelight faded rapidly, and by the 1989 season, he found himself in Triple-A Buffalo moving from position to position. He realized that he would never be the everyday shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One night, during a road trip for Buffalo, Khalifa missed the team bus due to a miscommunication and flew home in frustration. He was suspended by the Pirates and he figured he would start over the next season in spring training with another organization. He even had a tryout set up with the San Diego Padres.
However, five months later, Khalifa’s father was murdered, ending any aspirations Khalifa had of making a comeback. He no longer could focus on the game. Instead, he obtained a college degree, drove a cab, went through a multitude of jobs in sales, and ended up as a cab driver again. He refused to get over his father’s murder and the ongoing investigation.
Rashad Khalifa, his father, was brutally murdered on January 31, 1990, at the Masjid of Tucson. Rashad founded the masjid himself, considering himself a messenger of God, implementing science, modernity, and numerology into the practice and study of the Islamic faith. He considered himself a prophet, which led to a lot of controversy and threats. His son, Sam, struggled to focus on his baseball career during this time due to the distractions at home. Rashad’s murder became a cold case until 2006, when the Justice Department traced DNA to a man named Glen Francis. Francis was eventually indicted for the murder of Khalifa in 2013.
Today, Sam Khalifa is a content man. He does not discuss his glory days as a Major Leaguer much, and instead, spends his time either volunteering as a coach at his high school alma-mater or driving his cab.
Brownfield, Paul. "Briefly a Rising Star, Forever a Mourning Son." The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.