Archive for February, 2011
Clemson, SC – Bill Wilhelm, Clemson’s head baseball coach for 36 seasons from 1958-93, was one of seven members of the 2011 class inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday. The Hall of Fame in Lubbock, TX inducted its first class in 2006. Wilhelm is the first person associated with Clemson to be inducted into the National College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Wilhelm, who passed away at the age of 81 on December 24, 2010, posted a record of 1,161-536-10 in 36 years as a head coach, all at Clemson. The 1,161 wins are the most in school history in any sport. That figure is also tied for 15th-most in history among head coaches at a Division I school. He was fifth on the wins list at the time of his retirement in 1993.
In 36 seasons, he never had a losing record and led the Tigers to the College World Series six times (1958,59,76,77,80,91). He coached Clemson to 11 ACC Championships, 16 top-25 seasons, 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, and 19 ACC regular-season titles (including ties). Wilhelm also coached 20 All-Americans, 27 players who went on to play in the Major Leagues, 88 First-Team All-ACC selections, and 100 players who signed a pro contract.
The native of China Grove, NC led the Tigers to the College Worlds Series in each of his first two years with the program (1958,59). His 1958 team won the ACC Championship and made a miracle comeback to win the NCAA District III Playoffs in Gastonia, NC by defeating Florida twice on the same day by scores of 15-14 and 3-1.
When Wilhelm retired, he left a strong program. He took the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament each of his last seven years as head coach and his teams averaged 51 wins per year over that time. His 1991 squad still holds the Clemson record for wins (60) and the team’s 60-10 mark gave the Tigers the best winning percentage (85.7) in the nation that year. His final team, the 1993 squad, won the ACC Championship, beat 13 top-25 teams, and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Also inducted on Monday were Arizona outfielder Terry Francona (1978-80), Southern catcher Danny Goodwin (1972-75), Duke shortstop Dick Groat (1951,52), Grambling State Head Coach Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones (1926-77), Arizona State outfielder Oddibe McDowell (1983,84), and Cal State Fullerton first-baseman Tim Wallach (1978-79). The members of the 2011 Hall of Fame class will be honored during the induction ceremony on July 3 in Lubbock, TX as a part of the College Baseball Foundation’s annual celebration of the greatest players in the past and present of college baseball.
Tribute to Coach Bill Wilhelm – Clemson Baseball Legend A Gentle Giant
On December 24, 2010, Coach Wilhelm quietly passed from this life into the arms of Jesus. He was what baseball is all about. He loved the game. I cherish the times I had with him over the years talking baseball and getting updates on players. The twinkle in his eyes spoke volumes of how he felt about them. It was like a father talking about his son as he told of the latest endeavors of what they doing. So proud.
At his “Celebration of Life” January 8, 2011 in Jervey Gym, Coach Jack Leggett paid tribute to Coach B with this poem:
Be ready up there, open your hearts, and open the gate, Because you are about to welcome our #38.
You may not always like what he is go to say, But in the end he will make it a better day.
He’ll be wearing an orange uniform with all his pride, Before it’s all over, through tough times he’ll be on your side.
You won’t always understand, sometimes he will be gruff, But the plan will be to teach you lessons and make you tough.
He’ll like a good game, but will want to win, If you earn his respect, he’ll always be there through thick and thin.
His friends, his network, his influence will spread wide, If you look closely, everything he touches will be filled with pride.
He’ll love to play golf, not always hitting the ball straight, He’ll play cards, laugh with you, maybe show up at home late.
He’ll tell you he’s a three-handicap with a smirk, a smile, and his eyes will flutter, What are they you’ll ask, he’ll say, “My driver, my irons, and my putter”.
He’ll have the best memory of anyone you will see, He won’t forget what you did, your name, or your story.
He’ll tell you about his team through a half-empty glass, But before the nine innings are over, he’ll be kicking your ***.
He might change a call, to give you a fair shake, Something that’s not his, he will never take.
So you’ll see that he’s a man of integrity and principle, He’s going to embellish stories and it will never be dull.
He will talk about Michael and Randall, his heart full of pride, His love for them he won’t be able to hide.
Then he’ll tell you about Sara Jane, his lovely wife, She’s the piece of the puzzle that completed his life.
So buckle your seatbelt up there and be ready for the storm, Because you’re about to receive a man who’s influence and touch will be greater than the norm.
Treat him with respect and your tender touch, Because this is a man we are going to miss so much.
When he arrives, he won’t want any special welcome of fuss, But please tell him none of us will forget what he’s taught us.
We’ll miss you Coach Wilhelm.
Then Coach Leggett asked that:
If Coach had had any influenced your life positively, If you have thought about something he has said to you on a daily basis, If you respect all he has done for you, Clemson baseball, and college baseball, If you have taken some lessons from your experience with Coach and passed it on to others to make this a better place, If you miss him, If you recognize the value of all he has given us, I would like to have you stand and give him a 38-second standing ovation and let him hear us and how much we appreciate what he’s left behind.
Side Note: No one was sitting, a very moving time for all that were there and Coach B will be greatly missed. From the first time I met him years ago in bringing my son to baseball camp until the last time I saw him at the hospital…he was, and will always be thought of as, a Gentle Giant of a true Southern Gentleman. I will miss talking baseball with him on games days especially, I will miss that smiling face and twinkling eyes, I will – just plain and simple – miss Coach B.