It’s no secret that the Atlanta Braves have one of the most talented and hungry teams in the entire MLB. After all, they were just one win shy of earning their first berth in the World Series since that Commissioner’s Trophy made the glorious trip back to Atlanta in 1995.
This team has so much talent, quite possibly the most talent that I’ve seen return to one team since the mid-2000s, when we were in the in the midst of an unprecedented 14-consecutive division titles under the legendary Bobby Cox.
I truly believe that this team has every capability of bringing another Commissioner’s Trophy home to Atlanta. Tomorrow, the road to the World Series begins at 2:05 p.m CT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Citizens Bank Park.
Aaron Nola will make his fourth-consecutive Opening Day start in the red pinstripes, while Brian Snitker will hand the rock to Max Fried, who will be making his first-career Opening Day start.
Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.
I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.
It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.
I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.
Just two weeks ago, we said our earthly goodbyes to Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, the Mobile, Alabama, native, who broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which now serves as a parking lot to the adjacent Georgia State Panthers Football Field, the former Turner Field, which was home of the Braves from 1997 to 2016.
All that’s left of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium is a little section of the wall. You might ask ‘Well, why just a portion of the wall?’ You see, that portion of the left-center field wall serves as a reminder of all that was Mr. Hank Aaron and the all that he stood for.
Today, we remember Hank for the humbleness, integrity, honor, and dignity, with which he carried himself for so many years both on and off of the baseball field. Normally, we would be wishing him a happy and safe birthday on this day, but we don’t have to do that today, because we know that he is in a better place, far better than this land.
Hank is at the Feet of God in Heaven at this moment, I can only imagine how he is celebrating his first birthday in Heaven today, but I know that it’s far greater than any birthday he ever celebrated here on Earth during his time with us.
Today as not only Braves fans but baseball fans in general, we should offer words of comfort, compassion, inspiration, and motivation for his loved ones. To Hank’s wife Billye Suber Aaron, his children, Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, Hank Jr., and Ceci, I’m here to say that you aren’t the only ones mourning today, for we are with you.
Even though Hank may no longer be here physically, he will always be with us spiritually. Today, do as Hank would want you to do and “Just keep swingin,’” he is no longer in pain nor is he suffering and we will all meet in the Kingdom of Heaven when our names are called.
We’ve all got a best friend, or a lifelong friend who has been or was with us through it all. For me, Jody Sanford was that friend.
For 16 years, we were and still are thick as thieves, constantly getting on our siblings last nerve. In fact, we knew just when to ease up on them.
I like to think of our relationship with each other as sort of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde-type relationship, no we never killed anybody, nor did we ever run from the law, but we always had each other’s backs no matter the circumstances.
We never hurt anybody, but you knew where we stood. If you saw one of us, more than likely you saw both of us, because the other wasn’t far behind.
I’ve had my share of ups and downs over the past seven years, happy moments when I seemed to escape everything and then I’ve had moments where I’ve cried myself to sleep.
To know Jody was to love her, I can’t think of a single person who didn’t love Jody. When she loved she loved hard, but Lord help you if you got on her bad side.
She was never one to sugarcoat anything just to make somebody feel better about themselves. She would tell anybody exactly how she felt about them and it could be anywhere.
I know I got on her nerves more than once and I’m not going to lie, she got on mine too. But we never let that create a void in our friendship.
I clearly remember the day God called her home, I was sitting in the back of the house on the computer, mom was in the kitchen cooking green beans, and my brother was in his room.
It was about 4:30 at this point, and mom came running to the back and said “Jody, Jody!” I was wondering ‘What trouble has she gotten into now?’ Because the two of us were notorious for constantly being in trouble and never getting out of it.
I didn’t think much more of it, because I had just seen her the day before at Bazemore Field, I figured she had just gone off on somebody and everything was going like it normally did.
But then, before I knew it, my brother came into the room and took my phone, which made me mad because nobody really told me what was going on.
At about 6:30 p.m., the house phone rang, I picked it up, it was mom I couldn’t even get the word ‘hello’ out of my mouth good before she said “Jody’s gone,” my world felt like it was closing in on me.
Mom said “I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you back in five minutes.” At 6:35 p.m., the phone rang again, and that’s when she explained what happened and then I fell apart because I had just lost not only my best friend, but my very first friend.
The friend that went off on me constantly, who took me home from school on multiple occasions, the one who literally made me do my school work by saying “Don’t make me tell Mrs. Ellen.” I knew she would do it in a heartbeat, so I just rolled my eyes and did my work.
The one who I played with when we were both in diapers, I spent many nights at her house during the summers, had multiple inside jokes with her, etc. I could go on and on for hours about what she meant to me.
A few days passed by, and I was at lunch and they called me to the counselor’s office, I was confused why was I being called to the counselor’s office? I didn’t need a counselor.
When I entered the office, I headed to the back into a meeting room where several more of my friends, including my brother were sitting.
It wasn’t long until her brother walked in and asked us to be pallbearers at her funeral. I wasn’t sure I was mentally capable of doing it, but I knew it’s what she would’ve wanted. So, I hugged her brother and fell apart, he said “Don’t cry, she’s in a better place, she’s with God at His right hand waiting on you.”
The night of the visitation, I entered the church, which is just about a mile from my house and was met by her entire immediate family.
There, her dad, with a frame that stands well above six feet, hugged me tightly as he fought back tears and said “That girl was crazy over you buddy.” He and her mom escorted me into the sanctuary, where Jody’s body was, I broke down when I reached the casket.
I couldn’t believe this was actually happening, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. We had talked about going to college together but that wasn’t going to happen.
The next day at her funeral, I was sitting in the front left pew with all of the pallbearers, when it was time to carry the casket to the hearse, I stood up, took a deep breath and grabbed the handle of the casket with my right hand.
I walked down the steps of the church toward the hearse and loaded the casket into the hearse, I was wearing sunglasses and I lifted them up as soon as I loaded her in the back of the hearse and patted the casket.
I was met with multiple hugs and then headed to the cemetery, when we arrived at the cemetery behind the hearse, I felt my throat get a lump in it. I approached the hearse and loaded the casket onto the lowering table. Then was met with more hugs.
Jody, thank you for always being here for me. Thank you for the memories, thank you for the arguments, the random times we rode around town together, the ice cream dates, and so much more.
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.
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.”
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.
The sound humans often associate with thunder is actually lightning. The booming claps are the result of air rapidly expanding as lightning heats it to nearly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 90 percent of lightning actually occurs above our heads in the clouds, we only see the remaining 10 percent on their fraction-of-a-second journey to Earth.
These are what meteorologists refer to as “cloud-to-ground strikes” and they generally measure up to five miles long and a couple of inches in diameter. A single bolt of lightning can produce one billion volts of electricity. Humans have died from a 42-volt shock to their system, which is part of the reason that Roy Sullivan’s story is so incredible. It’s not just that it happened, it’s also the fact that he survived.
Most individuals struck by lightning experience some kind of indirect strike. Roy Sullivan, apparently experienced them all. Born February 7, 1912, Roy grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Greene County, Virginia. As a boy, he roamed its many ridges and hollows hunting for rabbits. An avid outdoorsman, he spent his twenties building Shenandoah National Park until it spanned 311 square-miles of protected land.
Roy was by most accounts, ordinary, he just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, seven times. In 1942, 30-year-old Park Ranger, Roy Sullivan watched a thunderstorm barrel through Shenandoah Valley from the panoramic views of Miller’s Head Fire Tower.
He was enjoying himself until seven or eight bolts of lightning hit the wooden shelter and the tower erupted into flames, Roy fled for his life, but his efforts were in vain. Just as he escaped from the firelit tower, another bolt of lightning struck him directly in his right leg. The impact of the strike seared the skin all down Sullivan’s leg.
According to the Washington Post, blood spurted from his foot, draining through a hole ripped in his boot sole. Roy would recover and for the next 27 years, he was a guy that had been struck by lightning. But that changed when in July 1969, 57-year-old Roy was driving his truck down Virginia’s Skyline Drive through a thunderstorm, when lightning suddenly hit a tree on one side of the road and jumped, a side flash passed through Roy’s window and knocked him unconscious at the wheel. He lived, but the flash seared off his eyebrows, eyelashes, and most of the hair on his arms.
One year later, in 1970, lightning struck a transformer in Roy’s backyard and jumped again, this time is blasted his left shoulder and knocked him several feet into the air. In 1972, Sullivan was working at the park’s registration booth when he heard a loud thunder clap.
In an instant, the 60-year-old man found himself engulfed in a painful white light. Roy’s scalp apparently caught fire with six-inch high flames. The next time he was struck by lightning, Roy was on patrol when he saw storm clouds form in the sky naturally at this point, he was terrified of storms so he hopped in his patrol car and drove, but according to Roy the clouds followed him.
When Roy finally felt that it was safe enough to exit his car, lightning blasted him into the air again, this time knocking the shoes off his feet with the shoelaces still tied. On June 5, 1976, lighting struck the now-64-year-old Roy as he routinely checked on a campsite in the park. Supposedly, the sixth strike hit him just one mile from where he had been struck by the second bolt. Five months later, Roy retired from his service at the park.
He packed up his things and took outdoors out of the equation. He and his wife Patricia moved to a small mobile home in Virginia. Naturally they littered their property with lightning rods, one on every corner of their home, one on the television antenna outside and several on numerous trees that were nearby the home.
Despite the rods, lightning still found its way to Roy. On June 25, 1977, Roy started to smell Sulphur while he fished for trout in a pond near his house. Just as the hair on his arms eerily stood on end, lightning hit him again. This time sending Sullivan into the pond where he had been fishing.
The blast also singed his hair, burnt holes in his clothes, and left his stomach and chest covered in burns. Afterwards, he lost hearing in one ear. This is said to be the last time that Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning, but it is said that he didn’t count the time that he was struck while helping his father cut wheat in a thunderstorm. When lightning struck the tool that young Roy was holding, then jumped from the tool onto the ground, and started a small fire.
On September 28, 1983, after 41 years of being the victim of chance and circumstance, 71-year-old, Roy Cleveland Sullivan took his own life in Augusta County, Virginia. Today, Mr. Sullivan’s disturbingly mysterious and incredible life is remembered by many in the Guinness Book of World Records
Roy was either the luckiest or the unluckiest man in the world, depending on how you look at it, but he definitely lived a life unlike any other.
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.
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.