The Braves introduced his demise, saying he died Saturday night time in his sleep.
Baseball Corridor of Famer Phil Niekro, who pitched effectively into his 40s with a knuckleball that baffled large league hitters for greater than twenty years, principally with the Atlanta Braves, has died after an extended battle with most cancers, the group introduced Sunday. He was 81.
The Braves mentioned Niekro died Saturday night time in his sleep. He lived within the Atlanta suburb of Flowery Department, the place a most important thoroughfare bears his identify.
Niekro gained 318 video games over his 24-year profession, which resulted in 1987 at age 48 after he made one remaining begin with the Braves.
Recognized for a pitch that befuddled hitters and catchers — heck, Niekro did not even know the place it was going — he was a five-time All-Star who had three 20-win seasons with Atlanta.
Niekro additionally pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays late in his profession.
“We’re heartbroken on the passing of our treasured good friend,” the Braves mentioned in a press release. “Knucksie was woven into the Braves cloth, first in Milwaukee after which in Atlanta. Phil baffled batters on the sector and later was all the time the primary to affix in our group actions. It was throughout these group and fan actions the place he would talk with followers as in the event that they had been lengthy misplaced buddies.”
A statue of Niekro delivering his trademark pitch is situated outdoors of Truist Park, the Braves’ stadium.
Niekro did not make it to the massive leagues till 1964, when he pitched 10 video games in reduction for the then-Milwaukee Braves. He made just one begin over his first three years within the large leagues however lastly blossomed as a starter in 1967 — the Braves’ second 12 months in Atlanta — when he went 11-9 and led the Nationwide League with a 1.87 ERA.
With a fluttering knuckleball that required catchers to put on an outsized mitt, Niekro went 23-13 because the Braves gained the primary NL West title in 1969.
He additionally had 20-win seasons in 1974 and 1979, regardless of pitching for a group that fell on laborious occasions after its look within the inaugural NL Championship Sequence, the place the Braves had been swept in three video games by New York’s Amazin’ Mets.
Niekro additionally led the league in losses 4 straight seasons, dropping 20 video games in each 1977 and ’79.
He completed with a profession file of 318-274 an a 3.35 ERA. Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Corridor of Fame in 1997.
His youthful brother, Joe, additionally had an extended baseball profession with an arsenal that included the knuckleball. He gained 221 video games over 22 years within the large leagues, making the Niekros baseball’s winningest set of siblings, with a complete of 539 victories, simply forward of Gaylord and Jim Perry.
Joe Niekro died in 2006 at age 61.
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