Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro passed away Saturday night at the age of 81. The legendary knuckleballer enjoyed a 24-year career that included stints with the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
A five-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, Niekro collected 318 wins in his big league career — 121 of which came after his 40th birthday. That’s an MLB record, and so too are the 1,977 innings he logged after turning 40.
Niekro also placed in the top six in National League Cy Young Award voting five times and earned some MVP votes on occasion. Among his best performances include throwing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in 1977 and going the distance to win his 300th career game eight years later.
Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín was among those to share his condolences on Twitter:
Descanse en paz Phil Niekro un titan del montíca.Nunca olvidare el espectacular duelo que tuvo con Fdo.Valenzuela en Junio del 81 ganando Bravos 1-0 en una noche por demás húmeda y calurosa típica de Atlanta.Además de su talento como pitcher fue un hombre muy gentil y amable.
— Jaime Jarrín (@JaimeJarrin) December 27, 2020
As Jarrín notes, Niekro and Fernando Valenzuela enjoyed many battles together and were among the NL’s best pitchers in 1981. Niekro went 7-7 with a 3.10 ERA that year while Valenzuela earned Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award honors.
In 80 career games against the Dodgers (67 starts), Niekro accumulated a 25-30 record with a 2.99 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 514 innings pitched. Of those appearances, 24 were complete games, and he even tallied two saves in the process.
Remembering the seven MLB Hall of Famers to pass away in 2020
In what has been a rough 2020 for MLB, Niekro unfortunately became the seventh Hall of Famer to pass away this year, joining Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan and Tom Seaver.
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