The New York Yankees were lucky enough to have Phil Niekro pitch for them during two years of his 24-year baseball career. Yankee fans were saddened to find out that he passed away in his sleep last night. He was 81 years old.
The Hall of Fame knuckleballer pitched until he was 48 years old, a feat not seldom seen in baseball. He spent the majority of his career pitching for the Atlanta Braves. But for two years he pitched for the Yankees between 1984 and 1985, going 32-20 with an ERA of 3.59. Much of his success as a pitcher came from him developing his famous knuckleball pitch. Fellow Yankee Bobby Mercer once said of his pitching style; “trying to hit his knuckleball was like trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks.”
It’s a very uncommon feat for a pitcher to remain at the top of his game for his entire career, especially for a career that lasted 24 years. In his 24 years, he only had four losing seasons, and they were not near the end of his career. As stated earlier, he spent most of his career with the Braves. The Atlanta Braves signed him in 1966, after two years with the Milwaukee Braves, and he finished his career at the end of the 1987 season for those sameÂ Atlanta Braves after a short stint with the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame not as a New York Yankees but more fittingly an Atlanta Brave in 1997.
“Phil Niekroâ€™s record on the field ranks him as one of the gameâ€™s finest pitchers,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Chairman Jane Forbes Clark said in a news release.
“As a mentor, leader and friend, Phil brought out the best in all of us in Cooperstown. Over more than a decade of serving as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame, his wisdom, his compassion, and his love for the game proved to be invaluable in helping us shape our decisions. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the staff of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I would like to send our heartfelt condolences to Nancy Niekro and the Niekro family.”