William Harry Spilman was born on July 18, 1954 in Albany, Georgia. Early in his career he was touted in the media as “the next Pete Rose.”
Signed by the Cincinnati Reds in 1974, Spilman started in Billings where he was to appear in 54 games, going .309/.366/.433/.799. In 1975 and ’76 he was in Tampa where he appeared in a combined 133 games, going .249/.367/.360/.727. After that he moved on to Indianapolis where his numbers steadily improved.
It was in 1978 that Spilman was invited to the Reds’ spring training camp for the first time. An Alabama newspaper interviewed Spilman at the time, detailing his daily workout routine that included stretches, table tennis, and “shooting the breeze.” The reporter asked the Reds’ farm team director Sheldon Bender about Spilman. Bender said, “He’s the best hitting prospect we’ve seen in the past 5 or 6 years since Driessen.”
Spilman would go on to spend 1978 in Indianapolis, hitting .295/.383/.445/.828 before the Reds called him up that September to appear in four games.
Spilman never lived up to the comparisons with Rose. In 1979 he appeared in 43 games for the Reds, and put up mediocre numbers. In 1980 he appeared in 65 games going .267/.327/.426/.753. It was his best year with the Reds. He was traded to the Astros midway through 1981.
On April 19, 1983 Spilman even won a game for the Astros, and it was against his old team. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Spilman came to bat as a pinch-hitter with two runners on. He promptly shot a Tom Hume pitch over the right field wall for a walk-off win.
"Guys you trade seem to come back to haunt you," Reds manager Russ Nixon told reporters afterward. "You've got to give him credit. He hit a bad pitch…I know the pitch was up. I know it had to be up to go that far."
Spilman would go on to play for the Giants and the Tigers before retiring in 1990. He went on to be a minor league hitting coach for the Indians, and then for the Brewers in the past few years.