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Larry Demery, Pitcher on 2 Pirates Division Winners, Passes Away

Al McBean

Larry Demery, who pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1974-77, passed away on February 20 at age 70. For his career, the right-hander was 29-23 with a 3.72 ERA. He is the third former Pirates pitcher to pass in recent days, after Al McBean on January 31 and José DeLeón last Sunday.

In 1972, Demery was drafted by the Pirates in the seventh round of what was then the January Draft. In 1973, he made the jump from Single-A to Triple-A at the age of 20. Across both leagues, his ERA was 2.84 in 28 games, of which 27 were starts. In six games at Triple-A in 1974, he was 4-2 with a 2.81 ERA and five complete games, earning a call to the major league club.

Former Pirates Pitcher Larry Demery Passes Away at 70

Demery a Poised Young Pirate

Larry Demery made his major league debut for the Pirates on June 2, 1974, in relief of Bruce Kison against the Cincinnati Reds at Riverfront Stadium. Undaunted by the prospect of facing the Big Red Machine, Demery entered the game with one out in the third inning. In the fourth, he struck out Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Dan Driessen in order. That earned him a spot in the starting rotation. After a rough beginning that saw him at 1-4 with a 5.34 ERA, he settled down. The Pirates won his next eight starts, with Demery the winning pitcher in six of them, including two complete games. Over that stretch, his ERA was 2.77.

Alas, his next two starts in September were disastrous. With the National League East Division race a tight one that the Pirates would ultimately win by a game and a half, manager Danny Murtaugh replaced Demery in the rotation with Kison, who had been through pennant races before. However, despite his ineffectiveness that month, the Pirates would not have made it to the postseason without Demery.

Demery came back strong for the Pirates in 1975. Starting and pitching in long and short relief, he was 7-5 with a 2.90 ERA, four saves, and a 1.203 WHIP. Fellow pitcher Dave Giusti praised his maturity and willingness to accept constructive criticism. After a complete game win against the Atlanta Braves on August 26, Murtaugh praised Demery’s determination. The Pirates would again win the division. In the same swingman role in 1976, Demery was 10-7 with a 3.17 ERA, two saves, a 1.248 WHIP, and four complete games.

The Beginning of the End

Things fell apart for Demery in 1977. The Pirates’ clubhouse in the 1970s was a wild place where the humor would be considered politically incorrect today. No subject was off limits. In spring training Demery attacked and pummeled teammate Ed Kirkpatrick, apparently objecting to a joke made at his expense. This story was unknown until it was included in Dave Parker’s 2021 book, Cobra: A Lifetime of Baseball and Brotherhood. Parker felt that Kirkpatrick was only kidding. Demery thought Kirkpatrick was a racist. In any event, new Pirates manager Chuck Tanner was unhappy about the incident. Parker thought Demery needed to win 20 games in 1977 to remain with the Pirates.

Injuries and Attitude

Demery never got the chance. He made only eight starts that year. In 39 games, mostly in long relief, he was 6-5 with a 5.08 ERA and 1.627 WHIP. He complained that it was a difficult role for a 24-year-old. The time between appearances caused him to become stiff, he felt, hurting his effectiveness. Demery demanded a trade to a team where he could be a regular member of the starting rotation. The next spring, he was lost on a waiver claim to the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto returned him just four days later when they discovered he had a sore arm. Due to injuries, from 1978-80 Demery would pitch in just nine minor league games before calling it a career.

In the days before the Internet and social media, some matters never left the clubhouse, but there were hints that Demery may have been difficult. In 1979, The Pittsburgh Press columnist Bob Smizik wrote that due to “injuries and attitude,” Demery was “a classic case of a little success spoiling a good future.” The sarcasm drips off the page when Smizik refers to Demery’s “countless friends in the media.”

Demery was the son of Art Demery, who played two games for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the National Negro League II. Nothing else is known about his personal life.


Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports


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