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Phil Niekro (1939–2020), legendary knuckleball pitcher

by Kirk Fox

Phil Niekro was a legendary Hall of Fame pitcher known for his knuckleball pitch, who played for the Braves most of his career.

  • Died: Saturday, December 26, 2020 (Who else died on December 26?)
  • Details of death: Died at the age of 81 from cancer.
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The Knuckleball

Phil “Knucksie” Niekro used his expertise with the knuckleball pitch to win 318 games during a Hall of Fame career. He played most of his many seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves alongside brief stops with the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Cleveland. The knuckleball is somewhat of a lost art, a pitch with slower speed that moves oddly and is hard for hitters to predict the trajectory. Niekro was a five-time All-Star and pitched a no-hitter in 1973 against the Padres. Amazingly, he won 121 games over the age of 40 thanks to his knuckleball. His younger brother Joe was also a Major League pitcher, who won more than 200 games.

On catcher Bob Uecker telling him to stick with the knuckleball as a young pitcher

“Ueck told me if I was ever going to be a winner to throw the knuckleball at all times and he would try to catch it. I led the league in ERA [1.87], and he led the league in passed balls.” —From an interview with ESPN

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Tributes to Phil Niekro

Full Obituary: Atlanta Journal Constitution

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