Tookie Spann, a Brother Martin High standout and one of the best two-sport athletes in Tulane history, died last week. He was 48.
Spann, whose given name was Emmanuel, was a three-year letterman in football for Tulane and a four-year starter in baseball, playing a little bit in the outfield, but primarily at third base. He earned third-team All-America honors from Baseball America as a junior in 1987 and second-team All-America honors as a senior in 1988 under former coach Joe Brockhoff, leading the Green Wave to regionals in each of his last three years.
In football, he played fullback in 1985, rushing 66 times for 171 yards, before moving to defensive back, where he tied for the team lead with three interceptions in 1986, had 44 tackles and made five stops for loss. He registered 42 tackles in 1987 as Tulane reached the Independence Bowl, its first postseason appearance in seven years.
Baseball, though, was where he really left his mark. He hit .361 with 52 home runs, 259 RBIs and 204 runs in 205 games, still ranking among the top 10 in numerous career categories 27 years after his career ended. His batting average puts him in a tie for fifth. He is third in runs batted, in tied for third in on-base percentage (.476), fourth in slugging percentage (.657), tied for ninth in runs, fifth in home runs and seventh in total bases (470).
As a junior, he hit .383 with 19 home runs, 82 RBIs and 67 runs. A year later, he batted .376 with 21 home runs and 73 RBIs.
He was inducted into the Tulane Hall of Fame in 1997.
“He had special skills as a baseball player,” said Joe Scheurmann, a Tulane assistant coach for all four years of Spann was on the team. “He was from the same era as Joey Bell at LSU, and pound-for-pound he was every bit as good as Joey Bell was.”
No Tulane athlete in modern times before or after Spann has been as successful in two sports as he was. Scheurmann said Spann had it written into his football scholarship that he would be allowed to play two sports, making it clear to former football coach Mack Brown that he would be on the baseball team, too.
“He would finish football practice and at 2 o’clock and be with us at 3 o’clock and be totally ready to go (when the two sports coincided),” Scheurmann said. “He did everything well. He was a five-tool player. It came naturally to him.”
Taken in the third round of the 1988 draft by the Detroit Tigers, Spann spent six years in the minor leagues, but never made it past Double A.
His life took a tremendous downturn in recent years. In September of 2011, he was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity for aggravated rape in an Orleans Parish court. Police said he raped his girlfriend at knifepoint and threatened to kill her during an argument.
The funeral will be Dec. 29 at 10 a.m. at Charbonnet-Labat Glapion Funeral Home in New Orleans. Visitation will start at 8 a.m.