Temple University can claim several Hall of Fame coaches, among them basketball legends Harry Litwack and John Chaney.
But one has been largely overlooked. James “Skip” Wilson has been sitting in temple’s dugout since the 1960s and is a true example of longevity and dedication to a job.
Wilson came here as a Temple student only to stay on as the baseball team manager in 1960. In his managerial career he has compiled a record of 963-728-27. His career wins puts him 18th among NCAA Division-One coaches. Among the victories he has won conference championships, gone to the College World Series, and received many individual accolades.
His honors include being named to the Temple Hall of Fame in 1981, the American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1994. Despite the individual awards, he said the athletes he coaches are more important to him.
“I try to see what I have, and I analyze it. I have a couple of rules; first thing is you have to know your game, and then you have to be able to teach what you know,” Wilson said. “Then you have to have personnel, and know how to use your personnel, and I try to find out what personnel I have and where they will fit in and what type of team I will have.”
His team performance is important to him, and last year’s Atlantic 10 championship, Wilson’s third, made him very happy. This year’s team looks to repeat, and so far has accumulated a 5-7 record in the Atlantic 10, good for second place in the division. Last year’s championship added to his seven other conference championships that he had won when Temple was in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
Wilson came to Temple University before he was coaching the baseball team. He attended Temple as a student and graduated in 1958, and then earned his masters degree in 1961 in health and physical education.
“We have a very good University, and it is indicative that the kids we get are good kids,” Wilson said.
Wilson used his degree from Temple to teach 33 years in the Philadelphia school system.
“Baseball isn’t work, and teaching was tough. Baseball is fun,” said Wilson. “I enjoy it, that is why I keep doing it because I enjoy the kids, and I enjoy teaching them.”
Players have come and gone in the coach’s long career, plenty of them have made the professional ranks of baseball, and nine of those players actually made major league rosters. Some of those are current Detroit Tiger Bobby Higginson, Lakewood Blue Claws Mangager Jeff Manto, Olympic team member catcher John Marzano, and former manager and player Joe Kerrigan.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when one of my players makes it to the majors,” Wilson said. “But I get as much satisfaction when someone graduates from law or medical school, and I am happy about them.”
No matter when he retires, his legacy has been written.
“It is more important that the kids know baseball is not the end of the world; sometimes I used to approach it in that way,” Wilson said. “They’re human beings and kids that I coach, not pros. It is very important that these kids become well rounded.”
Matt Sitkoff can be reached at Phil14367@aol.com