|First seen||Give Me A Ring Sometime - Cheers|
|Last seen||The Show Where Sam Shows Up - Frasier|
|Date of birth||?|
Sam has one older brother, Derek, who was an excellent student. A poor student himself, Sam has a contentious relationship with his father, who always pushed him to get better grades.
Sam quit high school before graduating in order to accept an offer to play minor league baseball.
Sam was a relief pitcher in minor league baseball, eventually playing in Pawtucket, where he met friend and Cheers employee Coach Ernie Pantusso. He was eventually called up to the Major Leagues, where he spent his entire six-year career with the Boston Red Sox, and had been retired for five years when Cheers began. He played during the 1972 season, faced Charlie Spikes of the Cleveland Indians in a 1974 doubleheader, and was on the 1975 team that won the American League pennant. Another episode made reference to Sam having been a poor hitter, and never having posted a batting average of over .149. He once gave up four consecutive home runs against the Seattle Mariners, which began play in 1977.
At the beginning of the series, Sam's past career in baseball is spoken of as though he had been a very good pitcher who might have become a truly great pitcher had he not been derailed by his alcoholism. Even a particularly obnoxious New York Yankees fan, despite being strongly biased — because of the acrimonious Yankees – Red Sox rivalry — nonetheless acknowledges that Sam "didn't stink", recalling specifically that Sam "had a darned good hard slider."
In the later years of the series, however, the derision of Sam's baseball career became a frequent source of comedy for the show's writers. As such, most latterly references to his performance with the Red Sox became decidedly derogatory. By the time of "Indoor Fun with Sam and Robby", an episode from the series' eighth season, even one of Sam's best friends now had a markedly different take on the quality of Sam's slider. In that episode, Carla Tortelli first touts Sam's ability to remain calm under pressure, recalling how, during his baseball career, when the game hung in the balance with two runners on base and the opposition's best hitter up to bat, the Red Sox would turn to "'Mayday' Malone with his 'Slider of Death'". But when asked what would happen next, Norm Peterson replies that Sam would "usually give up a three-run homer ... It was Sam's teammates who called it the 'Slider of Death'."
It was mentioned several times during the series that Sam's jersey number while with the Red Sox was 16. In the bar, there hung a frequently-seen photograph of a Red Sox pitcher — ostensibly Sam — wearing the number 16. The actual player depicted in that photo was Jim Lonborg, who wore the number 16 during his pitching career with the Red Sox.
As owner of CheersEdit
Sam buys Cheers circa 1977, as his playing days are winding down. To counteract the suggestion that a show set in a bar might encourage alcohol abuse, the writers depicted Sam as a recovering alcoholic. The backstory was that Sam had bought a bar during his bout with alcoholism. Then, after he achieved sobriety, he decided to continue to own and operate the bar for "sentimental reasons". At one point during the series, Sam briefly relapses and began drinking again, spurred by the collapse of his romance with Diane Chambers. With the help of Diane and Dr. Frasier Crane, Sam regains his sobriety. Aside from this fleeting episode, Sam never drinks alcohol over the course of the series, and usually carries around a bottle of water or ginger ale or sipped from a mug of coffee.
A second failed relationship with Diane prompted Sam to sell the bar (in 1987) in an attempt to escape his painful memories. Sam soon regrets that decision and returns to the bar to work there as an employee. He later succeeds in his quest to reclaim ownership of the bar in the early 1990s.
Sam was both the first and the last character to be seen on the show, as the first and last episodes were bookended. In the opening episode of the series, "Give Me a Ring Sometime", the first scene is that of Sam strolling out of the bar's back room to open Cheers for the day. In the last episode, "One for the Road", the final scene depicts Sam closing Cheers for the night — telling a potential patron outside (and, in effect, also telling the show's viewers), "Sorry ... we're closed" — and then strolling back into the back room.
Though he doesn't appear, the Frasier episode "Cheerful Goodbyes" references Sam. According to Cliff, his retirement party isn't being held at Cheers because Sam's Red Sox buddies are having a reunion there. This implies that Sam still owns the bar.
Considered physically attractive by women (and not especially modest about it), Sam was once married to a woman named Deborah, but his marriage did not last long. Continuing to be a prodigious womanizer—he confesses to Diane after their first kiss that he has been with 400 women—as he was during his baseball career, Sam allows Norm Peterson, Cliff Clavin, and other male bar patrons to live vicariously through his numerous sexual conquests. Shortly before the end of the series, Sam realizes that he is a sex addict and begins to seek professional counseling. Throughout the show Sam keeps a little black book of woman behind the bar which is seen as something very sacred to the bar flies of Cheers. It is revealed in the season 9 finale "Uncle Sam Wants You" he actually has kept several of these books. During the series, Sam is romantically involved with Diane Chambers and later with Rebecca Howe, and the romances are the basis of the plots of many episodes.
Sam continues to harbor insecurity about his brother Derek, a handsome, talented, wealthy, and successful lawyer, who he fears is superior to him in every way. Derek, who is referenced frequently in the two-part first season finale "Show Down" and made an "appearance" in the episode's first part, is an unseen character, with the viewer only hearing his voice (provided by Charles Ball) but never seeing him.
When Sam goes to Seattle to visit Frasier in a 1995 episode of that show, Sam is shown to still possess his trademark charm. During his visit, he flirts with both Roz and Daphne (Roz gives Sam her card, and when Frasier comments that it glows in the dark, Roz tells Sam "So do I". Daphne is heard giggling in the kitchen with Sam, and when Niles tells her to have sweet dreams, Daphne quips "No problem there"), much to their delight. Martin Crane reveals that he was a fan of Sam's when Sam was a professional player (although this was mainly because Sam once gave up four consecutive Home Runs against the Seattle Mariners), and the duo bond over dinner. Martin refers to Sam as "the most important person to set foot in this apartment."