Many in Charlotte remember the name “Terwilliger.” Willard Wayne “Twig” Terwilliger, age 95, was the son of Ivan and Doris Terwilliger of Charlotte, and passed away on February 3, 2021, in Weatherford, Texas, where he lived with his wife, Lin. He is survived by his children Marcie and Steve, and stepsons Mike and Kevin. His sister, Mary Lou Terwilliger Schneckenberger passed away in 2018.
Terwilliger was a star athlete at Charlotte High School, was a United States Marine radioman and machine gunner present at the Battle of Iwo Jima and at Saipan during World War II, was a Major League Baseball player, and was a major and minor league baseball coach for five decades, totaling 62 years in baseball.
“Nothing in my 62 years of baseball was more important than my two years in the military,” Terwilliger later said.
As his niece, Patti Wright, said, “He was such a downright all-American guy.”
Terwilliger played nine seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) between 1949 and 1960 for the Chicago Cubs, Brooklyn Dodgers, Washington Senators, New York Giants, and Kansas City Athletics.
He had multiple brushes with baseball’s all-time greats, like Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.
“It was cool to have an uncle who was famous,” said Wright. “He was a great father figure to us kids growing up. When he wasn’t away doing stuff, he was with us.”
In 1926 his family moved from Clare, Michigan, to Charlotte. He played football at Charlotte High School and made all-conference as a quarterback. When he graduated in 1942, he attended what is now Western Michigan University. After flunking a class that made him ineligible to play baseball the next spring, Terwilliger decided to enlist in the Marines in 1943.
After his discharge from the military in 1945, Terwilliger hitchhiked the 200 miles home to Charlotte. In 1946 he married Mary Jane Locke, and they had two children. He returned to college at Western Michigan in 1946.
Terwilliger started his career in the minor leagues in 1948. He quickly rocketed to the majors. Terwilliger was a player, manager, and coach for about 30 teams from 1948 to 2005. He played, coached, and managed in more than 7,200 baseball games since 1948, and was still coaching at age 80.
Terwilliger married his second wife, Lin, in 1974 and returned to Charlotte.
His father had a bar which was located where the Eaton Pub is now, originally known as The Tavern, and was a gentlemen-only drinking establishment. When his father retired, Terwilliger took the bar over, renamed it “Twigs” and ran it when he was not playing ball. The walls of the bar were covered with baseball memorabilia. Lee Strickland managed the bar when he was playing or at spring training, Wright said.
Wright remembered Terwilliger being a mentor to children. “He was a substitute teacher for the Charlotte Schools for a while. When the children from the country schools played baseball, he came every Friday to umpire the games, and did a little coaching to help improve their baseball skills, along with teaching them the importance of teamwork,” Wright said.
In 2002 the Terwilligers moved to Texas to be near his wife’s father who was in poor health.
Terwilliger was inducted into the Lansing Sports Hall of Fame in 2020, one of nine individuals inducted. However, the ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To learn more about Wayne Terwilliger, you can read his book, written in 2006, called “Terwilliger Bunts One.”