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Phil Niekro

Phil Niekro

Position(s):
P
Nicknames:
Knucksie
Born:
April 1, 1939
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-15-1964 with ML1
Allstar Selections:
1978 GG, 1979 GG, 1979 LG, 1980 GG, 1980 RC, 1982 GG, 1983 GG
Hall of Fame:
1997

Intro

Throwing his last pitch when he was 48 years old, Phil Niekro fluttered and floated his knuckleball for almost a quarter of a century, winning 318 games and logging at least 200 innings in 20 seasons. He toiled for the Braves for parts of 21 years, bridging the gap between Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron and Dale Murphy and Tom Glavine. He and brother Joe won 539 games in the major leagues, the greatest total in history by siblings. Niekro won five Gold Glove awards and won at least 15 games on 13 occasions. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997.

Unform Number

#35 (1964-1987)

Replaced By

The Indians actually had Niekro (age 48), and Steve Carlton (42) in their 1987 rotation. Gradually throughout the season, the two veterans gave way to youngsters Darrel Akerfelds, Rich Yett, and Scott Bailes. On April 8, Niekro started against the Blue Jays and was relieved by Carlton, as Cleveland prevailed, 14-3. It was the first time two 300-game winners pitched for the same team in the same game.

Best Season

In a season when teammate Hank Aaron eclipsed Babe Ruth's home run record, Niekro led the NL with 20 wins and was second in ERA (2.38), and shutouts (6). He paced the league in innings, games started and complete games. He also saved one game and drove in 10 runs on the season.

Fact

No one ever played as many seasons as Phil Niekro (24), without appearing in the World Series.

Twice in his career, Phil Niekro hit into a triple play. Both times, the outs were recorded 5-4-3.

Transition

Signed as an amateur free agent by Milwaukee Braves (July 19, 1958); Released by Atlanta Braves (October 7, 1983); Signed by New York Yankees (January 5, 1984); Granted free agency (November 12, 1985); Signed by New York Yankees (January 8, 1986); Released by New York Yankees (March 28, 1986); Signed by Cleveland Indians (April 3, 1986); Traded by Cleveland Indians to Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Darryl Landrum and a player to be named later (August 9, 1987) - Cleveland Indians received Don Gordon (August 10, 1987); Released by Toronto Blue Jays (August 31, 1987); Signed by Atlanta Braves (September 23, 1987).

Strengths

Longevity. In 1984, 45-year old Niekro was a teammate on the Yankees of Jose Rijo, an 18-year old pitching phenom. Niekro had earned his first major league victory on the day Rijo was born.

Weaknesses

Never getting on a pennant-winning team.

The Magical 300th Win

Niekro notched his 300th win with the Yankees, on the final day of the 1985 season. He hurled an 8-0 shutout over the Blue Jays, becoming the oldest pitcher (at 46) to throw a complete game shutout. He was also the first man to win his 300th game in a New York Yankees' uniform. Niekro relied on his fastball (somewhere in the mid-80s), curve and slider until the final batter, when he finally threw a knuckleball. For weeks, Niekro had been flying back to be by his father's side in the hospital. His father seemed near-death, and Phil and his brother Joe, as well as their mother, lingered at the bed for days. Finally, Phil wasn't sure what to do - return to the Yankees to pitch or stay? One day, his father was alert enough to scribble some words on a piece of paper. They read "Win - Hap..." Phil and Joe took it to mean that if Phil won his 300th game, his father would be happy. Phil flew off and tried a few times but lost. Finally he won it against Toronto. During the game, Niekro's father and mother listened to the play-by-play at the hospital through a special feed provided by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. At one point in the game, Mr. Niekro raised himself up a bit and said, "Sonny boy is pitching a hell of a game." When Phil and Joe returned (joe was a reliever for the Yankees), Phil presented the game ball to his father. His father made a miraculous recovery and lived for two more years.

Most Career Wins, Brothers

Phil (318) and Joe Niekro (221) = 539 Gaylord (314) and Jim Perry (215) = 529

 

Sources and Links:

References

 External links

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Tagged:
1982 NLCS, 300 wins, All Star, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Gold Glove, Hall of Fame, Joe Niekro, Knuckleball, Lance Niekro, Milwaukee Braves, New York Yankees, No-hitter, Phil Niekro, Retired number, Toronto Blue Jays

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