“Yankee Killer” Frank Lary Passes Away

“Yankee Killer” Frank Lary Passes Away

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“Yankee Killer” Frank Lary Passes Away

“You don’t think I can do something? I’ll show you!” –Frank Lary, commenting on his “competitive spirit” which he said led to his success against the Yankees.

This week the baseball world said a sad good-bye to former Tiger standout pitcher Frank Lary, aged 87, known as the “Yankee Killer.”

Frank Lary pitched 12 years in the majors (1954-1965), for the Tigers (1954-’64), Mets (1964, 1965), Braves (1964), and White Sox (1965), posting a 128-116 record with a 3.49 ERA, 1099 strikeouts, and 126 complete games. A two-time All-Star, he led the American League in wins in 1956, going 21-13, becoming the Tigers’ first 20-game winner since Hal Newhouser won 21 games in 1948. 

The Northport, Alabama native led the league in innings pitched and complete games three times; and games started twice. His best season was probably 1961 when he went 23-9, with a 3.24 ERA. He was the ace of the staff on a 101-61Tigers team. He also won the Gold Glove Award and finished third in Cy Young Award voting behind Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn.

It was his uncanny success against the powerhouse Yankees of the 1950s which earned him his “Yankee Killer” reputation. From 1955-’61, he went 27-10 against the Bronx Bombers, a span in which they won six pennants.  In 1956, he went 5-1 against a 97-57 Yankees team. In 1958 he was 7-1 against the 92-62 Yankees, becoming the first pitcher to win seven games in one year against the Yankees since Ed Cicotte in 1916. He was also 5-1 against them in 1959.

Perhaps his Southern heritage had something to do with his success. Sportswriter Joe Falls once commented:

“As far as Frank Lary is concerned, the war between the states never did end. There merely was an 89-year interlude between Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865 and Lary’s arrival in the major leagues in 1954. The objective has remained the same: rout the Yankees.”

His success was duly noted by Yankees’ manager Casey Stengel. The “Old Professer” once delayed a start of his star pitcher Whitey Ford by one day so Ford would not have to face Lary. Stengel explained to reporters, “If Lary is going to beat us anyway, why should I waste my best pitcher?”

Lary pitched for the University of Alabama and helped them win the College World Series in 1950. He is survived by his wife Emma and four children.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Frank Lary Wikipedia page, and from Frank Lary obituary in Chicago Sun-times, December 18, 2017.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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