Legendary Tigers coach Wilhelm passes away at 81

Baseball coach was winningest coach
in any sport in university history

CLEMSON — Bill Wilhelm, Clemson’s legendary baseball coach from 1958-93, passed away Friday morning at Oconee Memorial Hospital in Seneca at the age of 81.
In his 36 years as Clemson’s head coach he posted a record of 1161-536-10, and the 1,161 victories are the most in school history in any sport, and still rank in the top 20 in the history of Division I college baseball. In 36 years guiding the Clemson program, he never had a losing season.
Wilhelm led the Tigers to the College World Series six times (1958-59-76-77-80-91) and coached Clemson to 11 ACC Championships, 16 top 25 seasons, 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and 19 ACC regular season titles (including ties). Between 1973-82 Clemson won either the ACC regular season title or the ACC tournament every season. Wilhelm coached 20 All-Americans, 27 players who went on to play Major League Baseball, 88 first-team All-ACC selections and 100 of his former players signed professional baseball contracts. Among his former players is Jimmy Key, a four-time Major League All-Star who played on World Series Championship teams with the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees.
The native of China Grove, N.C., led the Tigers to the College World Series in each of his first two years with the program, 1958 and 1959. His 1958 team might have been his favorite, as the Tigers won the ACC Championship and made a miracle comeback to win the NCAA District III Playoffs in Gastonia, N.C., 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 the team averaged 51 wins per year over that time. His 1991 team still holds the Clemson record for wins with 60 and the team’s 60-10 mark was the best winning percentage (.857) in the nation that year. That team had an average winning margin of 5.5 runs per game, still a school record. His final team, the 1993 squad, won the ACC Championship, beat 13 top 25 teams, and reached the NCAA Tournament.
“When I think of Clemson University, I think of him,” Clemson head baseball coach Jack Leggett said of Wilhelm, whom he succeeded in 1994. “He was what Clemson is all about. He was tough, he was honest, he was competitive and he took pride in everything he did.
“I will always have great respect for Bill Wilhelm. He set such a strong foundation for this baseball program. He set that foundation certainly in what he accomplished on the field, but he also set that foundation in the way he ran the program. He did things the right way and he was a great example to me when I was his assistant for two years before taking over as head coach.
“Since he retired he was nothing but supportive. We had great meetings about baseball. Those meetings and his wisdom were very valuable. But, at the same time, he never interfered. He let us run the program.
“My prayers go out to his wife Sarah Jane and his two sons, Randall and Michael. The entire family has meant so much to the Clemson baseball program.”
Wilhelm is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Sarah and his sons, Michael and Randall.
Funeral arrangements will be announced later.