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Homeless Man Admits Impersonation

September 14, 2000

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ A homeless man with a thorough knowledge of the baseball career of Frank Lary has admitted that he passed himself off as the former Detroit Tigers pitcher for years and checked into hospitals under his name.

Leroy Fulton, 74, admitted in federal court Wednesday that he crisscrossed the country for a decade pretending to be Lary so he could get medical help.

Lary, a 70-year-old Northport resident known as ``the Yankee Killer,″ pitched for the Tigers from 1954 to 1964.

Fulton, who has emphysema, signed autographs as he checked himself into hospitals from Florida to Nebraska, he said. He pleaded guilty to fraud. Judge U.W. Clemon sentenced Fulton to time served since his arrest in May.

Fulton’s court-appointed lawyer, Ken Gomany, said the charge stemmed from an occasion on which Fulton went to New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and told officials he was Lary and gave Lary’s birthdate.

``He’s probably a walking encyclopedia″ of Lary’s career, Gomany said.

The hospital stay carried a $20,000 hospital tab, which was billed to Blue Cross in Alabama, Gomany said.

Hospital administrators became suspicious after not being able to verify the patient was Lary, said U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.

Fulton apologized to Lary, who was in the courtroom when the plea was entered.

Lary, who has declined to be interviewed, had reported to authorities that someone was using his name to get medical benefits.

Lary signed with Detroit after his sophomore year at the University of Alabama. In 1956, he led the American League in innings pitched.

Fulton said he began using Lary’s name decades ago after winning a bet that the pitcher would beat the Yankees. He said he wants to go to Portland, Maine, where he can get help for his drinking problem.

``The judge really gave me a break,″ Fulton said. ``I finally wised up.″

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