by Bill Dow
Detroit Free Press
Dec. 15, 2017
Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Frank Lary died on Wednesday in Northport, Ala., according to the Tuscaloosa News. Lary was 87.
Lary, known as “Mule” or “Taters” due to his rural Alabama upbringing, spent 11 seasons with the Tigers, making the American League All-Star team in 1960 and 1961. He had his best season with the Tigers in 1961, when he went 23-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 275⅓ innings. That season, he won a Gold Glove and finished third in Cy Young voting, behind the Yankees’ Whitey Ford and the Braves’ Warren Spahn.
“He was a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor,” said former teammate and Tigers pitcher Paul Foytack. ” I remember once in a pre-game meeting we were talking about a certain hitter that we didn’t want to beat us. Someone said ‘we should just walk him.’ Frank said, ‘Why don’t we just hit him.'”
Lary didn’t make the majors until 1954, his baseball career delayed by serving in the Korean War. Overall, Lary finished his 12-year major league career with 128 wins and a 3.49 ERA. He also pitched for the Mets, Braves and White Sox.
“First time I saw Frank was when I came up in September of 1963,” said Denny McLain, a former teammate and two-time Cy Young Award winner. “He was a real character, always making jokes with a million one liners. He roomed with Norm Cash, so that made all the difference in the world. With those guys, you couldn’t have a bad day.”
Known in the media as the “Yankee Killer” with the Tigers, the right-hander went 28-13 with a 3.32 ERA in 56 starts against New York’s AL franchise. He injured his leg hitting a triple against the Yankees in the 1962 season opener — a 5-3 victory — and was never the same, going 10-23 after the injury.
“When you pitch against a team as many times as I did against them, you memorize them,” Lary told The Tuscaloosa News in 2005. “You remember what worked and what didn’t the last time. … If you got them out, you stay with it. They had all those guys who were pretty good ballplayers. They swing the bat good.”
Lary grew up in Northport and attended the University of Alabama, where he was the star of the Crimson Tide’s 1950 College World Series team. Lary was the youngest of seven boys in his family. His brother, Al, who died in 2001, had two short stints in the majors. Both brothers were inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.