Frank Wills’s baseball journey from Wisner Playground to Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame – Crescent City Sports

1975 Wisner Babe Ruth Baseball Team

De La Salle and Tulane’s former multi-sport athlete Frank Wills being inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame by this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl. His baseball achievements in high school and college eventually landed him a job in the professional ranks, including nine seasons as a league pitcher. big fight.

Wills started baseball at the Wisner Playground in Uptown New Orleans. The competition at the playground and the coaches who taught him the game were instrumental in making him a standout baseball player in the future. One of his NORD and Babe Ruth coaches, Larry Scott, says he has watched Wills progress steadily as a player, from an eight-year-old playing in the league to 10-year-olds. until he was 15 years old. Scott notes that baseball is an adulterous family for the Wills. He said, “Frank’s mother kept the scorecard for the team, while his father helped coach the team and direct the players to their games. His mother would call me after the game to review the highlights of all the players. “I remember my parents never missed a game.

Jimmy Anderson grew up with Wills, and they’ve played together since high school. When they were 13 years old in 1972, they both joined the Uptown Babe Ruth All-Star team coached by Tom Piglia. They beat New Roads to win the state championship. Even at the age of 13, Anderson said Wills dominated as a pitcher. He recalls the right-hander nicknamed Wills, because he had good speed, but his control wasn’t always the best. Anderson said, “It’s not uncommon for him to walk the first three fights of an inning and then hit the next three.”

Jerry Burrage, Wills’ last high school baseball coach at De La Salle, lived two blocks from the Wills family and followed his playground career. He also talked about his family’s enthusiastic support for the young athlete.

Burrage said, “Frank is somewhat of a free-spirited flirt, but he shows a lot of respect for his parents.” He believes Wills started his pitch as a pitcher at the age of 15 at the Babe Ruth ball game in 1974. He recalls one particular game in which Wills threw a city ball in the championship. rival Babe Ruth with a strong Lakeshore team coached by Firmin Simms. He said, “Frank’s team lost a close game, but his outing made a strong case for how good he is going to be.”

Wills became a multi-sport athlete at De La Salle, playing football and basketball in addition to baseball. He was on the Cavalier basketball team that finished second behind Landry High in the state final in 1976. He was a two-way player in football in quarterback and safety, as De La Salle won 7 -3 in his senior season in 1976. He was selected to play in the Louisiana All-Star Soccer Game in July 1977.

Will spent three years playing baseball at De La Salle. The Cavaliers won the state title in his senior season in 1977, with Wills and Bruce O’Krepki as their key pitchers. Anderson, the left hand of the De La Salle team, recalls that they didn’t need to score multiple times to win games with two standouts on the field.

The Cavaliers played their first high school baseball game at the Louisiana Superdome that year, when they beat West Jefferson in the state knockouts. Wills was the winning pitcher against Glen Oaks in the state semifinals. Against Chalmette in the final, Wills hit a homer twice in the fourth round and then hit the winning shot in the seventh. He is named for Times-Picayune All-Metro Team and selected for the 4A All-State Team by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

Paul Kelly, current De La Salle principal and basketball coach, was a student-athlete at De La Salle a few years after Wills graduated. He said, “I remember that our coaches still considered Frank the standard for athletic excellence.” A common theme among the coaches and his teammates interviewed for this article was that Wills was a natural athlete and a good teammate.

Wills accepted a scholarship offer from Tulane University, where he played football and baseball. He is rarely accompanied as a dual-sport athlete at the college-college level. His performance is ahead of famous two-sport college athletes such as Bo Jackson, Ben McDonald and Deion Sanders. As a freshman, Wills started as fourth defender on the Blue Wave depth chart. However, as a testament to his athletic prowess, he landed a job starting as a pitcher in his freshman year and often played on special teams. Burrage believes Wills has only been beaten once while playing at De La Salle.

But it was baseball where Wills made a name for himself at Tulane. He played right away as a freshman, setting a 3-5 record in 1978. As a sophomore, he set a 6-5 record with an ERA of 3.30 in 13 games. The green wave first hit the NCAA region that season.

Frank Wills

Wills set a 5-3 record with a 2.81 ERA in 13 games as a junior in 1980. His wins include 3 complete games, and his strike count per nine innings is 10.55 impressive. He founded the Metro Conference Plenary Group and was named the first all-American team by American Baseball and the Baseball Coaches Association of America. His stellar performance got him selected in the first round (16 .).order master) by the Kansas City Royals in the 1977 MLB Draft.

Wills has mixed results at major league level. He made his debut for the Royals in his third professional season (1983). But he had control issues that made him ultimately a reliever. He was involved in a four-team deal in early 1985 in which he was sent to the New York Mets. But after going through spring training with the Mets, he was transferred to Seattle. He threw an unsuccessful shot for Triple-A Calgary on May 31, 1985, before being called up to the Mariners. His time in the Mariners was followed by two years (1986-1987) in the Cleveland organization.

In 1988, he signed as a free agent with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he spent four seasons. His performance in the final game of the 1989 Blue Jays pennant race was one of the brightest of his career. He threw four innings with ease, of which he only let one hit happen, propelling the Blue Jays into the knockout stages. His busiest season came in 1990 when he appeared in 44 games, mostly as a centre-forward. He compiled a 6-4 record with an ERA of 4.73.

Frank Wills

Wills retired after the 1991 season at the age of 32. His nine-year major league career record includes a 22-26 record, six saves and a 5.06 ERA in 154 games. He died in 2012 at the age of 53.

Wills is one of five new inductees to the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame. The rest include Les Bonano (boxing), Bernard Griffith (basketball), Joanne Skertich (volleyball) and Reggie Wayne (soccer). | Frank Wills’s baseball journey from Wisner Playground to Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame – Crescent City Sports


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