Tim Kurkjian describes the life and career of ankle baller Phil Niekro, who died on Saturday at the age of 81 (2:07)

Phil Niekro, a pitcher who fooled generations of hits with his signature knuckle ball and tinkered a career in the Hall of Fame, died in his sleep Saturday night after a long battle with cancer, the Atlanta Braves shared with him on Sunday was 81 years old

Niekro, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, was one of baseball’s most prolific, long-lived pitchers His “Butterfly” pitch won 318 games in a career that spanned 24 seasons, including 21 with the Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves

“We were broken when our valued friend Phil Niekro died,” the Braves said in a statement. “Knucksie was woven into the Braves fabric first in Milwaukee and then in Atlanta. Phil confused batters on the field and always was later the first to participate in our community activities During these community and fan activities, he communicated with fans as if they were long-lost friends

“He has been a constant presence over the years, in our clubhouse, in our alumni activities, and throughout the Braves Country, and we will forever be grateful that he is such an important part of our organization

“Our thoughts and prayers go with his wife Nancy, sons Philip, John and Michael and his two grandchildren Chase and Emma”

As with many knuckle ball pitchers, age wasn’t a hindrance for Niekro, racking up 121 wins after turning 40 – a record in the Major League – and throwing until he was 48 Year of life By the end of 1987, his last season, Niekro was 10th in terms of the number of seasons played Place among the most important players Only Cy Young, “Pud” Galvin and Walter Johnson threw more innings than Niekros 5404 No pitcher since the dead ball era has spent more time on a Major League hill

“Phil Niekro was one of the most distinctive and memorable mugs of his generation,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement. “In the last century, no mug threw more than Phil’s 5404 innings His knuckle ball took him to five all-star selections, three seasons of 20 wins for the Atlanta Braves, the club with 300 wins, and finally to Cooperstown

“But Phil will be remembered more than his signature pitch and branding as one of the friendliest people in our game. He has always represented his sport extremely well and will be greatly missed. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I would like to thank Phil’s family, friends and express my condolences to the many fans he has earned in his life in our national pastime “

The symbol of the success and longevity of Niekr’s career was the knuckle ball, that bizarre floater that amazes not only thugs and catchers, but also the pitchers who never really know how the non-rotating pitch will dance on the plate / p>

Niekro was the king of the knuckle ballers and took first place in victories and eliminations (3342) Tom Candiotti, a notable knuckle of his time and a teammate of Niekro’s 1986 Cleveland Indians, said talking to Knucksie was “like talking to Thomas Edison about lightbulbs””

If the Knuckler owed staying in the majors, the same factor could explain Niekro’s initial difficulty reaching the big leagues as well. Stunned catchers and managers wary of outdated balls and wild fields were reasons common for Niekro’s prolonged stint in the Braves’ minor league system was signed in 1958, it didn’t break through for almost a decade, but the ankle was all Niekro had, all he believed in

“I never knew how to throw a fastball, never learned how to throw a curveball, a slider, a split finger, whatever they throw these days,” he said, “I was a one-pitch Pitcher “

Niekro was first called up by Milwaukee in 1964 and vacillated between majors and minors A pitcher struggled to find a niche and willing catchers. He found both in 1967 when he was reunited with Bob Uecker, a veteran reserve backstop with lots of sayings and wise advice

“Ueck told me if I would ever be a winner if I threw the knuckle ball anytime and he would try to catch it,” said Niekro. “I led the league in the ERA [187], and he led the league in balls handed “

“Catching Niekro’s ankle ball was great,” said Uecker, now a Hall of Fame announcer, “I’ve met a lot of important people, they’re all behind the plate”

By 1969, Niekro was an All-Star. His 23 wins that season earned him runner-up in the National League Cy Young Awards poll and he would live in drones for two more decades

“There aren’t a lot of players who like to deal with knuckle ball pitchers,” said Niekro. “They may not be intimidated by them, but they sure think about them before they go in the box”

“Trying to beat Phil Niekro is like trying to eat jelly with chopsticks,” said former New York Yankees all-star outfielder Bobby Murcer

“He just kills your timing with that ankle,” said Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, “It flies in there, bounces and bounces like crazy, and you just can’t hit it”

Niekro, born on 1 April 1939 in Blaine, Ohio, was the proud scion of a kind of family dynasty Phil Niekro Sr., a manual worker and part-time semi-pro pitcher, had mastered the ankle after an arm injury threatened to end his game days.He would take his sons, Phil Jr, teach and Joe, the place when they were young Phil and Joe, known as “Knucksie” respectively “Little Knucksie” learned well, set up a total of 46 seasons in the major league, earned six All-Star-Game berths and combined 539 victories in what is perhaps their proudest achievement

Their total winnings are still a major league record for siblings as they beat another brother combination with a Hall of Famer: Gaylord and Jim Perry (529 wins together)

Although Phil and Joe Niekro worked twice with the Braves from 1973-74 and the Yankees from 1985, the two self-proclaimed best friends were more frequently friendly rivals in 1979, with Phil, pitching for the Braves, and Joe, for the Astros, scoring with 21 most wins in the National League each. They fought against each other as hill opponents, with Joe defeating his big brother 5: 4 in their career. This advantage was made possible by a game-winning home run that Phil Joe gave, the only homer Joe in his 22-year career had hit

Being 300 as Phil Niekro Game won, Joe was by his side and it was arguably the most unique win in the older brother’s career.It was October 6, 1985, the last day of the season The Yankees had missed the postseason the day before with a loss at Toronto in the final handed over Manager Billy Martin Joe Niekro took on the duties of the pitching coach and Phil Niekro the ball.Phil, trying to win No 300 for the fifth time, stepped the bottom of the ninth after knocking out the jays on curveballs, slip pitches, fastballs and screwballs – anything but an ankle ball

He would later say that he wanted to prove he was a pitcher, not just an ankle baller, then the vibes finally took over with two outs in the ninth. Against Jeff Burroughs, an old friend and former Braves teammate, Phil Niekro threw four Places – the last three ankles Burroughs slammed, giving the Yankees an 8-0 win and Niekro his milestone

“I figured if there was a way, my 300 To win the game by knocking out the guy, I’d do it with the field that won the first game for me, “said Niekro

Phil Niekro’s game days ended in 1987, but he put on uniform again as manager of the Colorado Silver Bullets (1994-97) His pitching coach? Joe Niekro

Before Phil Niekro, Joe Niekro died, who suffered a fatal brain aneurysm in 2006

Phil Niekro

World news – USA – Hall of Fame knuckle baller Phil Niekro dies at the age of 81

Source: https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/30605849/hall-fame-pitcher-phil-niekro-famous-signature-knuckleball-dies-81