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Baseball’s Wilson retires after 46 seasons

Wilson
Baseball head coach James “Skip” Wilson retires holding 1,034 wins, the most of any Temple coach, regardless of sport. Wilson had more than 100 players sign professional contracts, including current Detroit Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson.

Temple head baseball coach James “Skip” Wilson, who led the Owls to a pair of College World Series appearances and compiled 1,034 wins in 46 seasons, has decided to retire, Director of Athletics Bill Bradshaw announced on Aug. 29.

Wilson guided Temple to 14 NCAA Tournaments and 10 conference championships during his tenure, which currently is tied for the longest in Division I history with Virginia Tech’s Chuck Hartman.

“It was a great lifetime of working with kids,” Wilson said. “I’ll miss teaching them how to play the game the right way.”

Wilson, 75, holds the most wins of any coach in Temple history, regardless of sport, and captured his 1,000th win on March 14, 2004, when the Owls defeated Manhattan, 10-9. He finished his career with a record of 1,034-824-27 (.556) and ranks 29th in NCAA history in victories. Of the coaches ahead of him, only three (Bob Morgan of Indiana, Bob Hannah of Delaware and Bob Warn of Indiana State) are from schools in the northern United States.

“Skip Wilson is a Temple and a Philadelphia collegiate baseball institution,” Bradshaw said. “His legacy will not only be measured in terms of victories and championships, but in the number of lives he has positively affected.”

The veteran mentor had a wealth of success during the 1970s. He led Temple to College World Series appearances in 1972 (third place) and 1977 (eighth) and earned four more NCAA bids during the decade. The Owls won the Middle Atlantic Conference title in 1972 and 1973 and captured four straight East Coast Conference championships from 1975 to 1978.

The Cherry and White moved to the Atlantic 10 in 1983 and immediately made its presence felt. Paced by future major leaguers John Marzano and Jeff Manto, Temple won the A-10 and reached the NCAAs in 1983 and 1984.

Wilson made his last appearance in the NCAA Tournament after a dramatic 2001 season. After opening the year 0-14, the Owls went 24-14 the rest of the way and won the Atlantic 10.

Named the District Coach of the Year three times (1972, 1977 and 1978), Wilson was honored by the University on Feb. 16, 1981, when he was inducted into the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame. Wilson also had the distinction of being inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 11, 1987, and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame on April 7, 1994.

A Philadelphia native, Wilson had more than 100 players sign professional contracts. Most notable in the major leagues right now is Detroit Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson. Other names of note are Philadelphia’s own Joe Kerrigan, former pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox manager; Jeff Manto, who spent 10 seasons in the big leagues with seven teams; John Marzano, a former major leaguer who serves as a postgame analyst for Phillies games on Comcast SportsNet; Ed Wade, general manager for the Philadelphia Phillies; and Steve Javie, a highly regarded NBA referee.

Wilson graduated from Manayunk’s St. John’s High School in 1948 and went to Georgetown University on a basketball scholarship. But the next year, scouts took an interest in his baseball skills and he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics. Wilson spent several years in the A’s farm system before enrolling at Temple in 1951.

Soon after, he received a draft notice from the Army and spent two years in the military. After graduating from Temple in 1958, Wilson coached the Owls’ freshman basketball team through the 1970–71 season.

He added baseball responsibilities in 1960, becoming Temple’s head coach after serving one year as an assistant to former Owl athletic director Ernie Casale. Wilson, who earned his master’s degree in 1961 from Temple in health and physical education, taught at Roxborough High School for 34 years before retiring from teaching in February 1992.

A national search is under way for Wilson’s replacement.

- By Kevin Bonner

 

 


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