Glancing Back, and Remembering Frank Lary
He “owned” the New York Yankees when that franchise was at the pinnacle of major league dominance. From 1955 to 1961, no other pitcher beat the Yankees as often or as consistently as Frank Lary.
And in between starts against the Yankees, Frank Lary was also a pretty good right-hander and the ace of the Detroit Tigers staff going into the 1960s.
Lary was signed by the Tigers off the University of Alabama campus in 1950. He made his debut at the end of the 1954 season, and in 1955 went 14-15 in his rookie campaign with a 3.10 ERA. In 1956, Lary went 21-13, leading the American League in wins, games started (38), and innings pitched (294).
That was the season when Lary’s reputation as a “Yankee Killer” began. In 1956, Lary went 5-1 in seven starts against the team that would end the season as World Series champs. In 1958, Lary won 16 games for the Tigers and led the league in complete games (19) and innings pitched (260.1). Against the Yankees, he was 7-1 in eight starts with a pair of shutouts and a 1.86 ERA.
Lary won five out of six decisions against the Yankees in 1959 when he went 17-10 for the Tigers. His best season came in 1961, when Lary went 23-9 and 4-2 against the Yankees. He finished third in the 1961 Cy Young balloting behind Warren Spahn and that season’s winner, Whitey Ford.
Lary was never the same pitcher after the 1961 season. From 1955 through 1961, he averaged 17 victories and 257 innings per season. From 1962 through 1965, arm problems limited Lary to a combined record of 11-23 and an average of only 90 innings per season. He stayed with Detroit into the 1964 season, and then bounced between the New York Mets, Milwaukee Braves and Chicago White Sox before retiring after the 1965 season.
In a 12-season career, Lary won 128 games, 28 against the Yankees, and 100 against everyone else.