Braves legend Phil Niekro passed away in his sleep Saturday night at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer. Niekro enjoyed a unique career that was full of highlights. He made his Major League Debut in 1964 and pitched in his last game on September 27, 1987 at the age of 48. He logged over 5,400 innings in his Hall of Fame career with 1,977 coming after the age of 40. He is one of just seven pitchers all-time with at least 300 wins and 20 saves.
More so than his accomplishments on the field, Niekro was a beloved member of the Braves family. The team issued a statement Sunday in regards to his passing and Commissioner Rob Manfred soon followed. The MLB Players Association also issued a statement on Niekro’s passing.
Rob Manfred statement on Phil Niekro: pic.twitter.com/PW3uWzJF7U— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) December 27, 2020
The Players Association is saddened by the passing of Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro. We extend our condolences to his family, friends and fans.— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) December 27, 2020
Niekro was a beloved teammate and became a fixture in and around the ballpark and at spring training. He touched a lot of players’ lives. Dale Murphy, Andruw Jones and Ender Inciarte were among those who posted reactions to Niekro’s death.
Nancy and I are deeply saddened by the news today of the passing of Phil Niekro. Knucksie was one of a kind. Friend, teammate, father and husband. Our hearts go out to Nancy Niekro, the kids and grandkids. So thankful for our memories and time together. We'll miss you, Knucksie.— Dale Murphy (@DaleMurphy3) December 27, 2020
RIP my friend you will be miss— Andruw Jones (@andruwjones25) December 27, 2020
Ugh heartbroken! An amazing pitcher but an even better man! Thank you Phil for all the laughs and wonderful memories over the years! #RIPKnucksie— Freddie Freeman (@FreddieFreeman5) December 27, 2020
Wow. He was more of a hall of famer as a person. I feel like you truly get to admire someone once you know how they care about others. May you Rest in peace Knucksie— Ender Inciarte (@enderinciartem) December 27, 2020
So sad today. Phil Neikro helped me in a profound way to change the course of my career and life. I was perpetually moved by his kindness, wisdom, and sense of humor. What a man! He will be missed. Thank you Phil!— R.A. Dickey (@RADickey43) December 27, 2020
I’m very sad to hear the passing of a great friend and great mentor Phil Neikro. He was one of the ones that helped me very much in my career and was always looking to help any way he could. He was a great pitcher but an ever better person. Rest In Peace knucksie, I will miss you pic.twitter.com/j66zWWL60U— Eddie Pérez 12 (@Eperez1212) December 27, 2020
You get beaten down to learn another @baseballhall friend #PhilNiekro passed away. He was kind, a gentleman, family man, master of his trade and teamate 84-85. Photo is at @Dana_Pump @David_Pump Foundation dinner with @STLWizard #RickeyHenderson pic.twitter.com/RccUiq0rJO— Dave Winfield (@DaveWinfieldHOF) December 27, 2020
I will always cherish the fact that I got to speak with a Baseball Hall of Famer. I will cherish more the fact that I got to know the man. Knucksie was a great, funny, and kind man. I will certainly miss seeing him. Rest In Peace Phil Niekro. https://t.co/iXSOEwx9rJ pic.twitter.com/KZ7KZQzcDW— Tyler Redmond (@bubblegum_jesus) December 27, 2020
Niekro was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. If you were not lucky enough to have seen him play, then his career is one that is worth revisiting.
Our own Cory McCartney took a closer look at Niekro in May for his retired numbers series at Talking Chop. Niekro came in at No. 83 on Joe Posnanski’s “The Baseball 100” list over at The Athletic. Just looking at his Baseball Reference page is a thing to marvel.