Frank Wills was a two-sport athlete for the Wave. In 1979, he was part of Tulane baseball's first-ever NCAA Tournament team and also played on the Wave's Liberty Bowl football squad that same season.
May 16, 2012
Frank Wills, a former pitcher and punter for the Green Wave, passed away on Friday, May 11 at his home in New Orleans. Wills was nine-year Major League Baseball veteran, an All-American pitcher for the Tulane baseball program and also served as the punter for the Olive and Blue on the football field after a standout career at De La Salle High School.
On the baseball field, Wills became the second Green Wave player ever to earn First Team All-America honors when he garnered the distinction from the American Baseball Coaches Association and The Sporting News during the 1980 season. That season, Wills posted a 5-3 record with 75 strikeouts in 64 innings of work on the mound to earn First Team All-Metro Conference honors and grab the attention of the major league scouts. During the 1979 campaign, he led the Wave to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
After completing his junior season, the De La Salle product became the first Tulane player ever selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft when he was picked with the 16th overall pick by the Kansas City Royals. His career earned run average of 3.29 ranks 11th on the Tulane charts and his three shutouts are tied for fourth in the TU record books.
Wills spent just three seasons in the minor leagues before the Royals called up the right-hander during the 1983 season. He made his major league debut on July 31, 1983, when he struck out six Detroit Tiger batters in four innings of relief work. That began a nine-year career in major league baseball for Wills, who played for the Royals (1983-84), Seattle Mariners (1985), Cleveland Indians (1986-87) and Toronto Blue Jays (1988-91).
In nine seasons at the big league level, Wills played for three division championship teams, winning the American League East Division twice in Toronto (1989, 1991) and the American League West crown while in Kansas City in 1984. His finest season on the field came for manager Cito Gaston in 1990 when the relief pitcher made 44 appearances and compiled a 6-4 record and a 4.73 ERA in 99 innings of work. In his major league career, Wills finished with a 22-26 record and a 5.06 ERA with 281 strikeouts in over 400 innings work.
During his time on the collegiate gridiron, Wills was a three-year letterwinner as a punter for the Green Wave from 1978-79. He played for head coach Larry Smith and was a member of Tulane's 1979Liberty Bowl team that finished 9-3 and featured wins over LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech No. 19 SMU and No. 13 Stanford.
Wills, who led the Wave in punting during all three seasons of his football career, remains ranked among the school's career punting leaders, including sixth in punts (184), seventh in yards (7,152) and ninth in average (38.87). His 75-yard boot against Southern Miss in 1979 currently stands as the sixth-longest punt in school history.