After a long battle with Cancer, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro passed away in his sleep, December 26, 2020, at age 81 in Atlanta, Georgia. He started as a reliever for the Milwaukee Braves, April 15, 1964. By 1967,
now the Atlanta Braves, Niekro had a 1.87 ERA, 11 wins 9 losses, 6 saves and pitched 10 complete games. It was during the 1967 season that he would become a full-time starter. Phil and his brother, Joe Niekro, learned the knuckle ball from their coal miner Dad, who said he learned it from another miner. He would make his first all-star team in 1960 with a 23-13 record and a 2.56 ERA.
Niekro struck out a hitter once and I never touched the ball. It hit me in the shin guard, bounced out to Clete Boyer at third base and he threw out the runner at first. Talk about a weird assist: 2–5–3 on a strikeout.Catcher – Bob Uecker
On August 5, 1973 he threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, the first for a Brave after moving to Atlanta. In 1982 Niekro would win his fourth gold glove, fourth time on the All-star team, a 17-4 record and hit a two-run homer. In 1983, he went 11-10, won his 5th gold glove and was released by the Braves. He would pitch for The Yankees, Indian and Blue Jays before Ted Turner made Phil’s wish to retire an Atlanta Brave come true.
He was one of the nicest and most genuine guys you will ever know. I don’t know if you’ll ever find someone who loved life as much as he did. He sucked the life out of every day that he lived. He was really a special, special guyBraves manager Brian Snitker
He came back to Atlanta in 1987 and retired at the end of that year. Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, into the 1999 founded Braves Hall of Fame in 1999 along with Warren Braves manager Brian Snitker, Eddie Matthews and Hank Aaron and the Atlanta Braves retired his number, 35, August 6, 1984. Phil Niekro threw 104 complete games after turning 40 and had a career 3,342 strikeouts. Joe Niekro had a career 221 wins, while Phil had 318, totaling 539 wins the most by any brother combination in Major League history.
He simply destroys your timing with that knuckleball. It comes flying in there dipping and hopping like crazy and you just can’t hit it.Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks
Hitting that thing is like trying to catch a butterfly with tweezers.Tim McCarver
I work for three weeks to get my swing down pat and Phil messes it up in one night. Trying to hit that thing is a miserable way to make a living.Pete Rose
You don’t catch the knuckleball, you defend against it.Catcher and Manager Joe Torre