Frank Lary, the star Detroit Tigers pitcher who was called the Yankee Killer because of his success against New York’s big-hitting lineup, died on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He was 87.
His nephew Joe Lary confirmed the death. He said his uncle had been hospitalized with pneumonia.
Lary, a 5-foot-11 right-hander, pitched for the Tigers from 1954 to 1964. He twice made the American League All-Star team and led the league with 21 wins in 1956.
He won the Gold Glove Award in 1961, when he went 23-9 and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting behind Whitey Ford of the Yankees and Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves. (At the time there was just one Cy Young Award for both leagues.)
Lary began his career as mainly a power pitcher, but as he grew older he came to rely more on his curve, sinker, slider and the occasional knuckler. He became known for calling his own game, often shaking off his catcher’s signal and choosing his own pitch.
“Frank Lary is a classic kind of ballplayer — the type, alas, you don’t see much of these days,” Sports Illustrated said in 1961, when the Tigers battled the Yankees for the pennant. “He is a throwback to the Cardinals of the ’30s, a cotton-pickin’, gee-tar-strummin’, red clay Alabama farm boy, unspoiled by a little college and a lot of success. He is mean on the mound and a joker off it.”