Soderholm-Difatte: Frank Lary, Yankee killjoy

From SABR member Bryan Soderholm-Difatte at Baseball Historical Insight on August 22, 2015:

On August 23, 1955, the Yankees’ lost their half-game lead in the standings when they were beaten in Detroit by the score of 7-2. They were now tied for first with the White Sox, and the Indians were only a game behind. The winning pitcher for the Tigers was 25-year-old rookie right-hander Frank Lary. He had now beaten the Yankees twice in four starts, which included a loss and a no-decision in a game Detroit lost after he left the mound. It was the beginning of Frank Lary’s career as . . . “The Yankee Killer.”

Frank Lary, who relieved in three games at the very end of the 1954 season, was not even mentioned by Robert Creamer in his preseason American League preview for SI. The Tigers, according to Creamer, did have “three or four reasonably dependable starting pitchers,” although he named only veterans Ned Garver—whose career has been unappreciated in part because he pitched for bad teams—and Steve Gromek. Beyond that, Detroit manager Bucky Harris’s challenge was to “find starters and relievers from an unholy mess of rookies and proven undependables.” (Nice turn of phrase, that.)

The Tigers opened the 1955 season with Garver, Gromek, Billy Hoeft, and the rookie Frank Lary as their four principal starting pitchers. Lary stayed in the rotation all season long, ending his rookie year with a 14-15 record, a 3.10 earned run average, 16 complete games in 31 starts, and a team-high 235 innings pitched.

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Originally published: August 24, 2015. Last Updated: August 24, 2015.