Honoring the Life of the True Home Run King: Hank Aaron


Henry Louis “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. While it may appear to the general public that Hank Aaron had everything handed to him a silver platter, that is far from the truth. Growing up in Alabama in the 1930s and 40s was very difficult, especially for a person of color. 

In the 1940s, his hometown of Mobile, Alabama was not a safe place for a colored kid to pursue equality with segregation and all that came with it. In an interview a few years ago when asked about his awareness of segregation and how he felt about it, Aaron stated “I don’t know that I was aware of it, but I was conscious of who I was.” 

During his childhood, young Hank passed through the sandlots of that south Alabama town with brief stops in the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues before he settled in with the Braves. He was just 13 years old when Jackie Robinson broke baseball color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, so his greatest idol was none other than Robinson. 

Hank Aaron grew up to be quite the baseball player himself. He was a consistent producer both at the plate and in the field, reaching the .300 mark in batting 14 times, 30 home runs 15 times, 90 RBI 16 times, and captured three Gold Glove Awards en-route to 25 All-Star Game selections. 

1975 was arguably Aaron’s best season. He hit .322 that year with 44 home runs and 132 RBI, captured the National League MVP Award and led the Braves to their first World Series Championship since 1914. His most memorable feat game on the night of April 8, 1974, when he took Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Al Downing deep for the 715th home run of his career, passing Babe Ruth’s previous mark of 714. He would finish his career with 755 long balls. 

He remains baseball’s all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). If each of his 755 home runs were to be removed, he would still have 3,016 hits. Hank Aaron was a model of humility, dignity, and quiet competence. He did not seek the adoration that he received, but he earned it, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. He passed away at age 86 on Friday.

We love you, Hank. Tell Don Sutton we said hello.

(Picture: Grant McAuley Twitter)
(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

A Man with a Heart of Gold: Baseball World Remembers Don Sutton for Genuine Personality


For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action. 

The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. 

A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.” 

Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team. 

Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.” 

The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.” 

I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport. 

While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day. 

Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future. 

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.” 

Rest in Peace Don, 

I love you, my brother.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

75 Years of the Queen of Country: Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton


Dolly Rebecca Parton was born January 19, 1946, in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in the small unincorporated town of Locust Ridge, Tennessee in Sevier County, Tennessee. She was the fourth of twelve children born to Avie Lee Owens Parton and Robert Lee Parton, Sr. 

Two of the twelve siblings have since passed on to a better place; Larry died shortly after birth in 1955, and Floyd died in 2018. Parton’s middle name comes from her maternal great-great-grandmother Rebecca Dunn Whitted. Parton’s father, known as “Lee”, worked in the mountains of East Tennessee, first as a sharecropper and later tending to his own small tobacco farm and acreage. In addition to those jobs, he also worked construction jobs to supplement the farm’s small income. Today, the legendary country music singer still considers her father “one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and it just so happens that I call him Daddy.” 

Her mother, Avie Lee, cared for their large family. Her eleven pregnancies in 20 years made her a mother of 12, with the tenth, being twins, by the age of 35. Often in poor health, she still managed to keep house and entertain her children with Smoky Mountain folklore and ancient ballads. The songs she sang were often sung by immigrants moving from the British Isles to southern Appalachia over a century earlier. 

Dolly’s maternal grandfather, Jake Owens was a Pentecostal preacher, and Parton and all her siblings attended church regularly, which resulted in Parton confessing her faith in Christ at an early age. Dolly has always been an entertainer, she began performing as a child, singing on local radio and television programs in the East Tennessee area. 

By the time she was ten, she was appearing on The Cas Walker Show on both WIVK Radio and WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee. At 13, she was recording on a small Louisiana label, Goldband Records, and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, where she first met Johnny Cash, who encouraged her to follow her instincts regarding her career. 

After graduating from Sevier County High School in 1964, Parton moved to Nashville the following day to pursue a career in the music industry, just as Cash had suggested. Her initial success came as a songwriter, having signed with Combine Publishing shortly after her arrival. 

Alongside her frequent songwriting partner, her uncle Bill Owens, she wrote several charting singles during this time, including two top-ten hits: Bill Phillip’s “Put it off Until Tomorrow” (1966) and Skeeter Davis’s “Fuel to the Flame” (1967). Her songs were recorded by many other artists during this period, including Kitty Wells and Hank Williams Jr. 

In 1967, musician and country music entertainer Porter Wagoner invited Parton to join his organization, offering her a regular spot on his weekly syndicated television program The Porter Wagoner Show, and in his road show.

Dolly Parton made her presence felt in the 1960s and 1970s, along with fellow pioneers Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. When that trio revolutionized the world of country music for women performers. During a career that spans 65 years and counting, she has performed alongside many legends in the Nashville scene, such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, and current country music sensation, Carrie Underwood. 

To say that Dolly Parton, once a little girl who dreamed of being a country musician, has had nothing short of a legendary career is an understatement. She was inducted into Nashville, Tennessee’s Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

They don’t call her the Queen of Country for nothing.

Happy 75th Birthday, Dolly, we love you honey.

(Picture: latimes.com)

Really Rocky on Rocky Top: With Pruitt, Fulmer out at Tennessee, Where Does Tennessee Turn Now

Hello, darkness and uncertainty, the two best friends of a Tennessee football fan. It wasn’t all that long ago that we met last, in fact it’s been just over three years.

Not a lot has changed since the last time the Tennessee football program and their fans were met with darkness, but two things have changed.

In addition to searching for their next head coach to replace the vacancy left by the firing of Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee Athletic Director, Phillip Fulmer has also decided to finally walk away from the game after more than two decades in association with the program.

Phillip Fulmer played on the Tennessee football team from 1968-1971, and then returned to the program in 1992 and served as the program’s head coach from 1992 until his termination in 2008.

In 2017, Fulmer returned to Rocky Top as the athletic director, in which position he served until January 18, 2021, when he was fired alongside Pruitt amid an NCAA recruiting violation investigation which could possibly land the Volunteers on probation.

As of now, Kevin Steele will serve as interim head coach until a permanent move is made. Whether the permanent head coach is Steele or not, whoever it may be isn’t exactly stepping into a gold mine. In reality, it could be said that they would be stepping into the exact opposite of a gold mine, whatever that may be. Where does this university and its football program turn now?

Only time will tell.

Go Vols,

Braxton Parmer.

(Picture: RockyTopTalk)

Born With the Blues: Chad Wesley


Some musicians have to adapt to a certain genre and soak in the atmosphere for a little while. But for one Jackson, Mississippi-based artist, he didn’t have to adapt and soak in an atmosphere, for him, the Blues was a way of life. Born near the Mobile Bay, in the neighboring town of Fairhope, Alabama, Chad Wesley has that Southern-edged, lonesome feel to his music and his background just adds to the mellowed vibe.

Wesley and his family left the Mobile, Alabama suburb of Fairhope when he was an infant, they were only there for a handful of years while his father was working for a sub-contracting company, Alabama Dry Dock, who sub-contracted for Ingall’s Ship Yard and the sub-ship department of the U.S. Navy. He’s been picking the Blues since December 23, 1994, when he learned his first chord.

At the time, Chad’s father and brother were already several years into their musical careers playing professionally. However, the Forest, Mississippi-raised Blues picker never got the chance to travel around with them.

Wesley stated “My Dad had retired from performing years earlier and was managing a band my brother was playing lead guitar in. Once that fell through my brother hung it up and spent his only time on the guitar just teaching me.” Wesley went on to state that both his father and brother, now mechanical designers, have continued to stand firmly behind him on his almost three-decade journey. 

He got his first taste of live performances in May of 1999. Going into his first public performance Chad stated “I was too excited to be nervous. Playing live for people had been my dream. The only time I felt normal was when I was doing something to entertain people.” So, in sense, you could say that this determined man that is driven for greatness has always been the life of the party. 

“It’s an internal sense of purpose that I’ve felt since childhood to bring joy to those around me.” Chad Wesley does just that and more. His bone-chilling guitar riffs not only make you understand where he’s coming from, but they also allow you to literally feel the vibrations of the guitar. 

He has won multiple awards during his time in the music industry, but he doesn’t want to be known or remembered for his awards, Wesley wants to be remembered as an entertainer that touched the lives of his listeners. 

He stated that the awards “have given me a strong sense of accomplishment. But what it’s done the most for me is it has let me know that what I’ve continued to pour my heart and soul into for so many years is finally paying off.”

Wesley listed some of his greatest influences coming from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and John Mayer, noting that, “he’s kept ‘the guitar’ alive in a world gone digital.”

While enjoying much success, Chad acknowledged that he has faced his fair share of letdowns in the music business. Stating “But the more I turned my trust towards God, the more I saw what success truly was, instead of what I had always dreamt it to be.” He attributed a great amount of that success to his family, stating “I have a beautiful family and a wonderful home, I’ve met legends, performed for thousands, but nothing can compare to coming home to the ones I love the most.” 

Wesley can often be seen on stages across the country picking a 1996 Fender Stratocaster American Standard, 50th Anniversary Edition, which he dubbed “Josephine” after his late friend, Joey Thrash, whom handed the guitar down to Chad after seeing him play it for one set during a show which Thrash attended.

Chad Wesley wants to get the message out to aspiring musicians that haven’t yet gotten the determination to make happen. Stating “Every dream deserves a shot. But once you decide to ‘shoot’, aim as high as you can and sever settle for less than what you feel you deserve. You’ll only get out of something what you put in it. If it were easy, everyone would do, invest in yourself.”

Wesley would like to invite to his upcoming shows at Martin’s Downtown in Jackson, MS and Blue Canoe in Tupelo, Mississippi, January 22 and 23, 2021, respectively.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Chad Wesley.

(Picture: chadwesley.com)
(Picture: chadwesley.com)

Top of the Mountain: Saban, Bryant Debate Shouldn’t Exist in the First Place

For many years now, Alabama fans have debated on which Crimson Tide head coach was the greatest of all-time. On Monday evening, currently Alabama head coach Nick Saban earned his seventh national title as a head coach, sixth in Tuscaloosa. Many media members are crowning Saban as the undisputed greatest head football coach in college football history. 

While no other college football coach has ever lifted the national championship trophy seven times in his career besides Nick Saban, I feel that the whole debate concerning Bear Bryant and Nick Saban should’ve never been existent in the first place. You might ask why. Well, hear me out. Take nothing away from Saban, he’s a great coach and has set a great standard at the University of Alabama. 

Nick Saban now owns a 165-23 record, sure that’s great, but people seem to forget what Paul “Bear” Bryant did and the times in which he did it. Bear Bryant served as the head coach of the Crimson Tide from 1958-1982, a time where the wishbone was the most popular offense in college football and defenses won championships. 

Again, take nothing away from Nick Saban, he’s a remarkable coach, but in my opinion Bear Bryant and Nick Saban are incomparable due to the fact that they are both the best coaches of their times. Nick Saban has had an incredible tenure at Alabama, that’s no secret. But have you ever thought about the fact that Bear did it with “less talent” so-to-speak? Not saying that Nick Saban’s players are definitely more talented than Bear’s were. 

Here’s what I’m saying, in the times that Bryant served as the head coach in Tuscaloosa, we definitely didn’t have the technology that exists today, there was no NFL Combine, Twitter seemed lightyears away, Facebook wasn’t even thought of. None of this social media that reels recruits in today, existed back in the 1950s-1980s. 

Nick Saban has all of these avenues and ways that he could go to get recruits from different parts of the country and even world, whereas when Bear was in Tuscaloosa, the majority of the players in Crimson and White were raised in the State of Alabama, you may have a handful that were from out-of-state, but the recruiting system that exists today, wasn’t even thought of back then. 

Both of these men are great men, leaders, and legendary coaches, when it’s all said and done, both of them will end up on the Mount Rushmore of Alabama Football, but this debate that pertains to who is the “best” between Nick and Bear shouldn’t exist. They were both great during their time periods. There’s no “best” head coach, they will both end up in the College Football Hall of Fame when it’s said and done. 

Nobody in the Hall of Fame walks around discussing which one of the Hall of Famers is the “best” everybody is in there for a reason. Put this debate to rest and respect the achievements of both men.

(Picture: SportingNews)

Striking the Pose with Class: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith Displays Class, Character During Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation


Heading into the Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation on Tuesday night, the Heisman Trophy had eluded wide receivers for 29 years. The last wide receiver to win college football’s most prestigious award was Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. Over the past decade, the award has primarily gone to running backs and quarterbacks. 

In addition to becoming the newest member of the Heisman fraternity, Smith also further etched his name into Crimson Tide lore as one of the best players to ever pass-through Tuscaloosa. He also joined the short, but talent-filled list of Crimson Tide players to win it in the past that includes current Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram, whom lifted the stiff-arming hardware in 2009, and current Tennessee Titans running back, Derrick Henry, whom took home the prestigious bronze bust in 2015. 

Tuesday night, DeVonta Smith, an Amite, Louisiana native wasn’t the only member of the Tide on hand for the unprecedented virtual presentation, quarterback Mac Jones was also nominated for the award. Ironically, the trifecta of other finalists were all quarterbacks: the aforementioned Jones, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, and Florida’s Kyle Trask. 

From the start of the season, it looked as if the Gators’ Kyle Trask might be the one lifting the hardware at the end, but DeVonta’s miraculous one-handed catch against LSU in Death Valley was seemingly was jolted Smith to the top of the ballot. 

He has brushed off questions by the media concerning the Heisman Memorial Trophy, and his class and composure that was shown throughout the 2020 regular season was mirrored Tuesday evening, when Smith, whom has a plethora of nicknames such as “Tay-Tay”, “Smitty”, and “Slim Reaper” took time to thank those who helped him get to this point in his life. 

The Louisiana native also took the time to offer a few words of encouragement for kids that might’ve been told that they can’t live out their dreams of being a college football player because of their size by saying, “To all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest, just keep pushing, because I’m not the biggest,” He later went on to say “Really, it just comes down to you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job is too big.” 

The man that began his career by catching the national title-winning pass from current Miami Dolphins’ quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is now a Heisman Trophy winner, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving, humble young man to have the honor. 

Congratulations, DeVonta Smith, your name is now a part of not just Alabama Football history, but also college football history, forever.

(Picture: Roll Bama Roll)
(Picture: al.com)

Don’t Let the Negatives from 2020 Carry Over into 2021

I think the one thing that we can all agree on is the fact that 2020 was everything that you see in a horror movie and then some. But now, it’s a new year.

This year will be a year of prosperity for all of us. Sure there will be moments where we think the weight of the world is on our shoulders, but that’s when you go further than you’ve ever gone before.

This year some of us will dream new dreams, set new goals, and if we have what it takes, we will follow through with those dreams and goals and achieve them and so much more.

Be prepared to wait, success has never happened overnight. Hank Aaron didn’t hit 755 home runs over night, Jackie Robinson didn’t break baseball’s color barrier overnight, each of them went through trials and tribulations, times of hardship, and times where they felt like giving in.

But then, something inside them told them to keep to pushing forward. You see, we will all fail from time to time, we’ll all fall at times but if we fall forward we’ve still made progress.

If we learn from the failures of life, we haven’t really failed. If you can fail and learn from it you’ve succeeded in the end. You don’t really fail until you give up.

2020 may have brought us all unforeseen circumstances, but that did nothing but set us up for a greater comeback story in 2021, you can dwell on the past or you can embrace the present and work for the future.

You can start writing your comeback story now or you can procrastinate until you have no choice but to get busy writing. Life doesn’t wait for us, why wait for it?

It’s all up to you, do you want to write your comeback story or have life write it for you?

Happy New Year from Braxton’s Broadcast.

God Bless,

Braxton Parmer.

(Picture: Facebook)

Missing Without a Trace: The Springfield Three


It’s been 28 years since the disappearance of the Springfield Three, two teenagers that had recently graduated high school and spent the evening partying following their high school graduation and one of the teenager’s mothers. More times than not, these cases are solved. But for these three things turned dark quickly. Sure, over the almost three-decade long investigation into the case, new leads have been developed, but nothing has been uncovered when it comes to the remains of the three missing women.

The date was June 7, 1992, in the city of Springfield, Missouri, not far from the bustling city of St. Louis, Missouri. After celebrating their high school graduation, 19-year-old, Suzie Streeter, and her 18-year-old friend, Stacy McCall decided to spend the night at Suzie’s house, alongside Suzie’s 47-year-old mother Sherrill Levitt. 

Later that morning, Suzie, Stacy, and Sherrill, also known as the Springfield Three are all discovered to be missing from the residence. The scene of the disappearance contained some interesting clues, including a broken globe from the porch light and an odd answering machine message, which was unintentionally erased, but no hard evidence of what might have happened to the women. 

Over the years, a number of leads have been brought to authorities such as a convicted criminal who claimed to know what happened to the victims. But no trace of the Springfield Three has ever been found. 

This case is considered to be one of the most unfathomable and haunting missing persons cases of the modern era, as there were no signs of any struggle or any evidence that an intruder had been inside the house, so if these three women were abducted, how did the perpetrator or perpetrators manage to pull it off?

On June 6, 1992, Suzie Streeter and Stacy McCall graduated from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri. They then went out for a night of celebration in honor of this huge accomplishment. The plan was to stop by several house parties and spend the night at their friend Janelle Kirby’s home. 

But when they arrived at Janelle’s house around 2:00 a.m., it was too overcrowded. And then, without knowing, they altered their fates permanently. They decided to go back to Suzie’s house and sleep there. This would be the last time anybody ever saw them alive, to this day, not a single person has seen them. 

On the following morning, June 7, Janelle Kirby and her boyfriend waited for Suzie and Stacy. They had all planned to go together to the local water park in the southern Missouri town of Branson, Missouri. They arrived at Suzie’s house at around 8:00 a.m. 

Three vehicles were parked outside: belonging to Suzie, Stacy, and Suzie’s mother, Sherrill. The glass lamp on the porch was broken and the door was unlocked. Janelle and her boyfriend proceeded inside the home. 

They noticed that the three women’s purses were lined up on the living room floor, at the foot of the stairs leading up to Suzie’s bedroom. The dog, a Yorkshire terrier named Cinnamon, was locked in the bathroom. But Sherrill, Suzie, and Stacy were nowhere to be seen. 

While inside the home, the phone rang and Janelle proceeded to answer. A strange male was on the other end, she hung up. Soon, the phone rang again. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, innocently cleaned up the broken glass on the porch. The couple then left the residence. 

Several hours later, Janis, who had been getting increasingly worried, stopped by the house herself. She hadn’t been able to reach Stacy by phone and knew she had decided to spend the night at Suzie’s. She went inside and also noticed all three purses on the living room floor. She also around the house, worriedly peeking in the other rooms. 

She recognized her daughter’s clothes, neatly folded on her sandals by Suzie’s waterbed. She also noticed that Sherrill and Suzie – both chain-smokers – had left their cigarettes in the house. Janis knew something wasn’t right, she knew this wasn’t like Stacy. Normally, Stacy was pretty good about letting her mother know of her whereabouts. 

She then called authorities in a panic. When she hung up, she noticed a light blinking on the answering machine. Someone had left a message. She played the message and later described it “strange.” She couldn’t remember more and the answering machine had automatically erased the message after it was played once.

Police were dumbfounded by what had taken place. What had happened to the three women in the wee hours of June 7, 1992? There was an untouched graduation cake left chilling in the fridge and nothing that gave any hint of forced entry.

The officers collected evidence and then began the interviewing process, they had begun the investigation too late– by that time, it had been nearly 16 hours since the three women vanished. Worried friends and family began stopping by the house to take in the scene and hopefully find clues that might lead to an arrest or closure of some type.

The last person to hear from Sherrill was a friend. Sherrill had called her at 11:15 p.m., and told her that she was painting a chest of drawers, but gave no indication that anything was wrong.

Even though many small tips and leads have been leaked in the nearly three decades since that fateful June night in 1992, nothing has surfaced that certainly may have belonged to the women, and the case is still cold.

Will the City of Springfield, the State of Missouri, or the United States ever get any sort of closure? Will we ever uncover a suspect? Is the suspect still at large or has the suspect passed on and gotten away with murder? What happened on June 7, 1992?

Where are the Springfield Three? Are their remains still waiting patiently to be discovered? We may never know.

(Picture: The Kansas City Star)

Remembering the Life of one of Baseball’s Greatest Pitchers: Phil Niekro

Known for his unhittable floating knuckleball that seemed to approach the plate like a balloon, Philip Henry “Phil” Niekro was a trailblazer, an icon, a legend, a Hall of Famer and so much more.

But most of all, he was a genuinely good soul. While most people will remember him for his daunting knuckleball and his ability to strikeout some of the best hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, I will remember him for his kind, generous heart. They just don’t make them like Phil anymore.

Niekro was born in Blaine, Ohio, and grew up in Lansing, Ohio. He attended Bridgeport High School In Bridgeport, Ohio, and was a boyhood friend of basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

The baseball field on which he played at Bridgeport High School’s at Perkins Field athletic complex was renamed “The Niekro Diamond” in 2008 after both Phil and his brother Joe Niekro, whom was also a Major League pitcher.

Their father was a coal miner who pitched semipro baseball and had learned how to throw a knuckleball from another coal miner. He later taught his sons how to pitch in the backyard when they were kids.

During his 24 big league seasons, Phil Niekro rode his knuckleball to 5,404 innings pitched – the most of any pitcher who started his career in live ball era. Unlike most pitchers, Phil was more than simply durable.

His 318 wins and 3,342 strikeouts are a testament to a pitcher who was often untouchable. By the time he turned 40, Niekro had already won 121 games, the most wins by anyone that age in baseball history.

During his career Niekro, who became known as “Knucksie” due to the dancing movements of his famous pitch, appeared in 864 games, gave up 5,044 hits, 2,337 runs, in 5,404 innings pitched. Totaled 318 wins and 274 losses, starting 716 games, had an ERA of 3.35, pitched 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, earned 29 saves, surrendered 2,012 earned runs, 1,819 walks, and 3,342 strikeouts.

He spent time with the Milwaukee Braves (1964-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-83, 87), New York Yankees (1984-85), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Toronto Blue Jays (1987).

He was also a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, the 1980 Roberto Clemente Award winner, led the National League in wins twice, pitched a no-hitter on August 5, 1973, had his number 35 retired by the Braves, is a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1997, alongside Nellie Fox, Tommy LaSorda, and Willie Wells.

He died of cancer at age 81.

Rest well Knucksie, I’ll see you again on the other side. Thank you for not only your contributions to the Atlanta Braves organization, but also for your contributions to Major League Baseball, your name will live on forever in the book of baseball lore.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)