Braves legend Phil Niekro has passed away at age 81 after a battle with cancer. Both the Braves and Major League Baseball released statements commemorating the Hall-of-Famer…
We are heartbroken on the passing of our treasured friend, Phil Niekro. Knucksie was woven into the Braves fabric, first in Milwaukee and then in Atlanta. Phil baffled batters on the field and later was always the first to join in our community activities. It was during those community and fan activities where he would communicate with fans as if they were long lost friends.
He was a constant presence over the years, in our clubhouse, our alumni activities and throughout Braves Country and we will forever be grateful for having him be such an important part of our organization.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy, sons Philip, John and Michael and his two grandchildren Chase and Emma.
From MLB commissioner Rob Manfred:
But even more than his signature pitch and trademark durability, Phil will be remembered as one of our game’s most genial people. He always represented his sport extraordinarily well, and he will be deeply missed. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my condolences to Phil’s family, friends and the many fans he earned throughout his life in our National Pastime.
Niekro’s incredible career stretched across 24 seasons, with the right-hander finally retiring at age 48 after one final game in an Atlanta uniform. Only Cy Young, Pud Galvin, and Walter Johnson threw more Major League innings than Niekro’s 5404 1/3 frames, as Niekro used his legendary knuckleball to become the biggest workhorse in modern baseball history. Niekro had a whopping 19 seasons of 200+ innings pitched, with four of those seasons topping the 300-inning threshold. Amazingly, Niekro amassed this record despite only posting 140 MLB innings and one start prior to his 28th birthday.
Beyond just durability, of course, Niekro posted some masterful results on the mound. He won 318 games and posted a 3.35 ERA for his career, keeping batters off-balance despite not being known as a strikeout pitcher (even in an era when hitters were expected to make contact and big strikeout totals were rare for batters). That didn’t stop Niekro from recording 3342 strikeouts, the 11th-highest total in baseball history.
As you might expect, Niekro’s name can be found near the top of many all-time statistical categories. His resume also included five All-Star appearances and five Gold Gloves, plus a runner-up finish to Tom Seaver in the voting for the 1969 NL Cy Young Award. Beginning his career when the Braves were still located in Milwaukee, Niekro spent 21 seasons and 740 of his 864 career games with the Braves organization, also pitching with the Yankees, Indians, and Blue Jays from 1984-87.
We at MLBTR extend our condolences to Niekro’s family and many fans around the world.