The True Knuckleball Artist, Phil “Knucksie” Niekro has died:Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitcher gone at age 81(Phil Niekro brought his baseball team to Greensboro’s War Memorial Stadium)


Phil Niekro, a pitcher who used his signature knuckleball to fool generations of hitters and craft a Hall of Fame career, died Saturday night in his sleep after a long battle with cancer, the Atlanta Braves announced Sunday. He was 81.

**********Niekro, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, was one of baseball’s most prolific and durable pitchers, using his “butterfly” pitch to win 318 games in a career that spanned 24 seasons, including 21 with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.**********

“We are heartbroken on the passing of our treasured friend, Phil Niekro,” the Braves said in a statement. “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.”

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ATLANTA — Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro has died at the age of 81.

Niekro passed away while sleeping on Saturday night. He had battled cancer over the past few years.

Niekro was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1997. The iconic knuckleballer collected 318 wins over a 24-year career that included stints with the Braves, Indians, Yankees and Blue Jays. He was a five-time All-Star who finished within the top six in National League Cy Young Award balloting five times from ’69-82.

“Phil Niekro was one of the most distinctive and memorable pitchers of his generation,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred. “In the last century, no pitcher threw more than Phil’s 5,404 innings. His knuckleball led him to five All-Star selections, three 20-win seasons for the Atlanta Braves, the 300-win club, and ultimately, to Cooperstown.

“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.”

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from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution:CLICK HERE for the complete post from the AJC…..

Phil Niekro, who pitched until age 48, is fourth all-time with 5,404 innings pitched. He’s 11th in strikeouts (3,342) and 16th in wins (318). Beginning in 1967, he had a run of 14 consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins and 200-plus innings. He led the National League in wins twice (1974, 1979), ERA once (1967) and strikeouts once (1977). He also won five Gold Glove awards. Niekro pitched a no hitter on Aug. 5, 1973, striking out four and walking three in the Braves’ 9-0 victory over the Padres.

The Braves retired Niekro’s No. 35 in 1984. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. He was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame two years later.

**********Phil Niekro brings his baseball team(women’s) to Greensboro’s War Memorial Stadium**********
(We were there to interview Phil Niekro on that night for “Off the Wall SportsCall”, on WKEW AM 1400 radio and on Greensboro Cable Access TV 8…Interview by Andy Durham/Jock Lobotamata, and video by Bruce Bullington…Phil’s team was trained by my former college football teammate, Chip Smith, from Liberty University.)

from Charlie Atkinson with the Greensboro News and Record:
++++++++++SILVER BULLETS: Mark May 31, 1995 on your calendar. That’s the day the nation’s premiere women’s professional baseball team comes to Greensboro.++++++++++

The Silver Bullets, coached by ex-big league pitcher Phil Niekro, will make a barnstorming stop in the Triad, where they’ll take on a team of Greensboro-based over-30-year-olds called the Greensboro Old Bats.

Game time is 7:15 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

The Silver Bullets’ schedule includes games in 30 states and Hawaii. They’ll appear in 12 ma jor-league stadiums and on cable TV 20 times. The game here will be televised.

The team that comes here should be better than the one that went 6-38 in its inaugural season. The top three hitters – pitcher/designated hitter Melissa Coombes (.222), second baseman Michele McAnany (.212) and third baseman Stacy Sunny – return from a team that hit .141 collectively. The pitching staff is built around Lee Anne Ketcham, who won five games. Niekro says he expects the team to win more games.

“I expect us to be much more competitive, that’s for sure,’ Niekro said. “We’ve got better athletes. Last year we just went out to find athletes and tried to make ballplayers out of them. This year the ballplayers came to us in the tryouts we had. We’ve had stronger, bigger women come out for the club. Last year we were kind of small and had to play the fundamentals.”

They’ve gone 4-3-1 in practice games. There were some bad days, such as the 25-4 loss to Edison Community College. And there were some not-so-bad nights, like a recent 3-1 win over the amateur-league Fort Myers Blues.