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Frank Lary's No-Hitter

By: Brian Frank

Part one of a two part series. Read part two here.

Prior to becoming a mainstay of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Frank Lary starred for the Bisons. The Alabama native, who would earn the nickname “the Yankee Killer” during his major-league career due to his success against the Bronx Bombers, pitched for Buffalo in 1953 and 1954.

Lary joined the Herd after he pitched a season in the low minors in 1950 and then served two years in the Army. He went 17-11 with a 4.00 ERA in 38 games (32 starts) for the 1953 Bisons and looked like a future piece of Detroit’s rotation. He had a number of good outings, but one particular start stood out for the young hurler – his second to last start of the season against the Ottawa A’s. In a doubleheader at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, Buffalo sent Lary, 16-10 at the time, to the mound in game one, followed by another future Tigers starter, Paul Foytack, in game two. The first game of the twin bill was scheduled to be a seven-inning affair, while the nightcap would be a nine-inning game.

Lary had already enjoyed success earlier in the year against Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen wrote that Lary had “been a kind of jinx for the Skaffmen (the A’s were managed by Phil Skaff) ever since Spring Training when he first beat them.”[1] After his spring success, Lary beat the A’s three more times during the season.

Lary's 1955 Bowman card, his first full season with the Detroit Tigers.

On a chilly evening in Ottawa, Buffalo scored a run off A’s starter Ed Hrabczak in the third inning and scratched out three more runs in the fifth. W.S. Coughlin of the Courier-Express wrote that Buffalo’s three-run rally in the fifth inning came on “only one clean safety by (Jack) Wallasea. Three infield hits, a wild pitch, passed ball, and an error by (shortstop) Jack Littrell, on (Frank) Bolling’s easy offering, added up to the scoring damage.”[2] Despite not exactly tearing the cover off the ball, the Herd had a 4-0 lead.

Lary rolled into the sixth inning of the seven-inning contest having not allowed a hit. After retiring the first two batters of the penultimate inning, he walked Ottawa’s leadoff man Skeeter Kell, Lary’s fourth free pass of the game. The next batter, Jack Littrell, hit a ball that looked like it might end the no-hitter, when he “lifted a high, deep fly to center field that looked like it was good for extra bases. (Center fielder) Bill Tuttle took after the ball and, after a long run, stabbed high into the night and made a one-handed catch to retire the side.”[3] The nice play by Tuttle ended the inning and kept the no-hitter intact.

The only blemish on Lary’s record in the seventh and final inning was a hit batsman. Other than that, he easily retired Ottawa on a pair of pop fouls, and Joe Taylor’s groundout to shortstop Buddy Hicks to end the game. As the final out was recorded, “Lary tossed his glove high in the air as a gesture of glee… All his teammates, even those in the distant bullpen, rushed out to the diamond and grasped his hand in congratulations.”[4]

During the celebration, Lary “had a wide grin on his face. Despite the unseasonable cold, perspiration was streaming down his face.”[5] As the Buffalo players celebrated, the Ottawa crowd, “1,249 of them, chilled to the bone, applauded gently.” [6]

“Brother, that last inning was murder," Lary said after the game. "I thought I’d never get those guys out. I knew it was a no-hitter.”[7]

Lary had faced only 24 batters in his seven-inning masterpiece. He struck out four batters, walked four, hit one, and never allowed an Ottawa baserunner to reach second base. He even starred at the plate for the Herd, reaching base three times. He singled twice in three at-bats, reached on a throwing error, and scored three runs.

Incredibly, in the second game of the evening, Bisons hurler Paul Foytack picked up right where Lary left off. Foytack held Ottawa hitless for 6 2/3 innings, before allowing a single to Andy Trabanavitch. The hit was the first of the evening for the A’s after 13 2/3 innings. The Bisons ended up sweeping the doubleheader, winning the nightcap 6-4.

But the night belonged to Frank Lary. While Lary’s masterpiece came in a seven-inning game, Bill Westwick of the Ottawa Journal noted, “Lary gave the very definite impression he could have continued the same hitless pace for two more.”[8]

Lary’s strong season at Triple-A Buffalo seemed certain to have him ticketed for a future spot in Detroit’s rotation. The no-hitter only added to his impressive résumé.

“I don’t see how he can miss,” Bisons manager Jack Tighe said. “He’s only 22. He has a good fastball and a good curve. He’s big enough and he’ll get bigger. He’s in his first year in Triple-A company and has a 17-10 record. He’s just out of the Army. Before this season he pitched only 11 games in class D ball somewhere.”[9] Tighe continued, “We picked him up because we didn’t have anybody else, but he’s a good kid. He’ll go up, maybe not next year, but he’ll go up.”[10]

To the delight of Bisons fans, Lary didn’t join the Tigers in 1954, but instead returned to the Queen City to lead Buffalo’s rotation, and he’d register another historic pitching performance.

Part one of a two part series. Read part two here.

[1] Jack Kinsella, “Bisons Take Pair from Ottawa A’s,” Ottawa Citizen, September 10, 1953. [2] W.S. Coughlin, “Frank Larry Hurls No-Hitter for Bisons,” Buffalo Courier-Express, September 10, 1953. [3] Tony Wurzer, “Lary No-Hits A’s for Seven, Then Foytack Does it for Six,” Buffalo Evening News, September 10, 1953. [4] Coughlin. [5] Wurzer. [6] Edward MacCabe, “Bisons Climb on Double Win, Frank Lary Throws No-Hitter,” Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1953. [7] Wurzer. [8] Bill Westwick, “The Sports Realm,” Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1953. [9] MacCabe. [10] MacCabe.


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