Frank Strong Lary was born on April 10th, 1930 in Northport Alabama. The five foot eleven right hander attended the University of Alabama playing for the Crimson Tide as one of over sixty Tide players to make the major leagues.
He was 10-1 in 1950 winning two games of the College World Series. He debuted in September 1954 at Tiger Stadium, closing out a loss to the AL New York club. He would have a great career against the AL New York club going 27-10 from 1955-1961 earning the nickname "the AL New York Teams Killer".
In 1958 he went 7-1 against the AL New York team, becoming the first pitcher since Ed Cicotte to do it back in 1919 for the Chicago White Sox. In 1959 he was 5-1 against the AL New York team, once forcing manager Casey Stengel to push back Whitey Ford, by one day so Ford wouldn't have to face Lary. Stengel told reporters, "If Lary is going to beat us anyway, why should I waste my best pitcher?"
To best describe Lary, here is a write up from a 1961 addition of the Sporting News. "Frank Lary is a classic kind of ballplayer—the type, alas, you don't see much of these days. He is a throwback to the Cardinals of the 30's, a cotton pickin', gee-tar strummin', red clay Alabama farm boy, unspoiled by a little college or a lot of success.
He is mean on the mound and a joker off it. To strangers he is quiet, but to the Tigers he is the Jonathan Winters of the dugout, keeping them loose and laughing. Sometimes he is a Casey Stengel, his legs bowed, his pants rolled above his knees. Then he is the trainer, complete in white shirt, white trousers and with a Turkish towel wrapped around his head."
Lary also had two other famous nick names he earned in his career. The nickname "mule" was due to his work horse pitching & ability to throw countless innings. He was also dubbed "Taters" when a team mate noticed he wrote down taters instead of potatoes on a dinner order on team road trip.
Lary was one of the most popular Tiger players in the fifties as well as one of the team's best pitchers. He served in the military for the 1951-1052 seasons returning to Detroit to go 11-15 in 1955.
In 1956 he had an incredible year going 17-3 by the 4th of July. Overall he went on to lead the American League in wins going 21-12 for a fifth place Tiger team that won just 82 games. Lary also led the league in starts (38) innings (294) his (289) & hit by pitches (12).
He would hit a dozen batters leading the league in that category three straight seasons. That year he struck out 165 batters posted a 3.15 ERA while coming in 17th place for the MVP Award.
After an 11-16 season in 1957, he rebounded to winning 15 or more games over the next three seasons, posting winning record in two of them.
In those seasons he was in the top four in victories each time. Lary was among the top ten in ERA three times as well, having his career best in 1958 (2.90) which was the fourth lowest in the AL.
In 1960 he was 15-15 but led the league in innings (275) for he third time in his career. He also led the league in starts (36) as well as complete games (15) hitting 19 batters (first in the AL). In 1961 he had his last big season, that year he was a twenty game winner for the second time, going 23-9 (second in the AL in wins ) with a .719 winning %. He led the league in complete games (22) for the third time in his career.
Lary pitched in 275 innings (second in the AL) & threw four shut outs & allowed just 2.1 walks per games. He posted a 3.24 ERA & struck out 146 batters (fourth in the AL). That year he won a Gold Glove, made the All Star team & was among the top vote getter in the Cy Young as well as the league's MVP awards.
In 1962 his long innings began to catch up to him. He suffered shoulder problems & went 2-6 with a 5.74 ERA in 17 games. In 1963 he began the year in the minor leagues then was 4-9 for the Tigers at the big league level.
In May of 1964 his contract was purchased by the New York Mets. Lary debuted as a Met on May 31st pitching two innings at Shea Stadium in a 7-6 loss to the San Francisco Giants. On June 2nd he earned a save pitching two scoreless innings against the Houston Colts in another Mets home game.
On June 7th he got his first Mets start allowing just one run in five innings pitched, but the game ended tied 1-1 due to rain. He then lost two consecutive starts, and earned three losses before the month was over. On June 12th in Cincinnati Lary threw a one run six hit victory over the Reds to get his first Mets win.
He would earn his second & last Mets win in his final Mets game on July 31st, two months after his arrival in New York. In that game Lary was brilliant tossing a two hit shutout against the Houston Colts.
During the first week of August he was then traded to the Milwaukee Braves or Dennis Ribant & cash. The Mets purchased his contract & he was back for the start of the 1965 season.
On Opening Day he pitched one inning against the Dodgers in the Mets 6-1 loss. Lary pitched eight innings of one run baseball beating the Phillies in Philadelphia on May 24th. He then suffered three straight losing decisions & was traded to the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later (Jimmie Schaffer). In 14 games he went 1-0 there ending his playing career.
In 12 seasons Lary was 128-116 with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 1099 batters walking 616 pitching in 2162 innings with 11 saves.
Retirement: After his playing career he began a construction business in Alabama. In the eighties he was working with the state paving roadways.