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)

If the Heisman Trophy was Awarded to the Most Courageous Player, Jalen Hurts Would Win by Unanimous Decision

Jalen Hurts, what a story, what a season, what a man. Some people still don’t understand why Jalen left Tuscaloosa, Alabama for Norman, Oklahoma.

He didn’t leave because of a coach, a teammate, or a circumstance, Jalen Hurts, the Oklahoma Sooners’ graduate- transfer-quarterback by way of the University of Alabama, who hails from Houston, Texas, left because he saw a better opportunity in Norman under Lincoln Riley’s direction.

Now, we all knew early on that LSU’s Joe Burrow, a transfer-quarterback by way of Ohio State University, was going to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night.

But if the most-prestigious award in college football was awarded to the most-courageous player in college football, Jalen Hurts would’ve won by unanimous decision.

Why, you ask? Well, you see, when Tua Tagovailoa beat out Jalen Hurts for the starting quarterback position in 2017, Jalen could’ve decided to transfer.

When Nick Saban pulled him out of the national title game in favor of Tua in 2017, Jalen could’ve throw in the proverbial towel, but yet he decided to stay.

Not because of Coach Saban or himself, but for his teammates. To show them that even though life may not always go as you plan, you can weather the storm and be rewarded in the end.

As was the case, when Saban pulled an injured Tua Tagovailoa out in favor of Jalen Hurts to win the 2018 SEC Championship.

Jalen Hurts is man of inexplainable character and courage. If only the Heisman Trophy went to college football’s most courageous player.

The All-Star Break Is Upon Us

It’s that time again, the time when the world’s most elite baseball players go head-to-head for one night. It all starts with the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby with some of the game’s most vaunted sluggers, one of those vaunted sluggers is Atlanta’s own, Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuna Jr. has 21 homers and is responsible for shattering two Atlanta franchise-records, the franchise-record for homers in a month, which was broken in June 2019 when Atlanta sent a total of 56 baseballs over walls all across the country. The record was fittingly broken by Acuña Jr. at home on Sunday, June 30, 2019. Ronald is also responsible for breaking the franchise-record for breaking the franchise-record for most homers hit by a Braves team before the All-Star break, when he belted the 141st homer of the year on July 6, 2019 vs. Miami’s Caleb Smith on the first pitch of his first inning at bat. It seems fitting that the 21-year-old is an all-star right? He also caught the last first-half out for Atlanta on July 7, 2019 to help preserve the Braves 4-3 win over the Fish. In addition to Acuña Jr., the Braves are sending first baseman Freddie Freeman and 21-year-old starting pitcher Mike Soroka to Cleveland. Soroka and Acuña Jr. will become the youngest pair of teammates to ever be on All-Star rosters in its 90-year history, Acuña Jr. will also be the youngest Home Run Derby participant ever. The Home Run Derby will start at 7pm CT on July 8, 2019 followed by the 90th MLB All-Star Game at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox on July 9, 2019. What should we expect from the second-half of the season?