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    Remembering Hall of Fame Knuckleballer and Former Yankees Pitcher Phil Niekro, Dead at 81


    Name: Philip Henry Niekro

    Born: April 1, 1939 in Blaine, Ohio

    Died: December 26, 2020 (aged 81)

    Nick Name: “Knucksie”

    MLB debut: April 15, 1964, for the Milwaukee Braves

    Last MLB appearance: September 27, 1987, for the Atlanta Braves

    MLB statistics

    Win–loss record: 318–274

    Earned run average: 3.35

    Strikeouts: 3,342

    Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame: 1997

    Teams: Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves (1964–1983)

    New York Yankees (1984–1985)

    Cleveland Indians (1986–1987)

    Toronto Blue Jays (1987)

    Atlanta Braves (1987)


    Phil Niekro, the Hall of Fame pitcher and master of the knuckleball, died in his sleep Saturday night after a long battle with cancer. He was 81. Niekro pitched for 24 seasons, the first 20 of them with the Braves. He won 316 games, 16th most alltime. Niekro pitched two seasons with the Yankees and won his 300th game with them on Oct. 6, 1985, pitching a shutout against the Blue Jays. A five-time All-Star and fivetime Gold Glove winner, Niekro learned the knuckleball from his father. Niekro, who grew up in Lansing, OH, seven miles west of Wheeling, West VA, signed his first pro contract for $500 with the then-Milwaukee Braves in 1959, and went on to lead the National League in wins twice, ERA once (1.87 in 1967), complete games and innings pitched four times, and strikeouts once (262 in ’77) for mostly bad, lastplace Braves teams. After 21 seasons with the Braves, he was granted free agency in November of 1983 and signed a two-year, $1.5 million deal with the Yankees the following January. After two seasons in New York, he was traded to Cleveland, then he closed out his career with the Blue Jays and a brief return to Atlanta at age 48 in 1987. Niekro is the last pitcher to throw 300 innings in consecutive seasons (1977-79). Although he never won a Cy Young, Niekro finished in the top six of the voting five times, and was the runner-up to Tom Seaver in 1969. During his peak from 1967-84, Niekro won 278 games and posted a 3.18 ERA in nearly 4,700 innings. He never did win a World Series, but he was a four-time All-Star and fivetime Gold Glove winner, and he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his career, Niekro won 121 games after he turned 40. That is an MLB record. He pitched until he was 48. Niekro became the seventh Hall of Famer to die in 2020, joining Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Whitey Ford and Joe Morgan.