Braves legend Phil Niekro dead at 81

Sports

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 09: Phil Niekro throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to game five of the National League Division Series between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals at SunTrust Park on October 09, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

A Braves legend passed away Saturday night.

The Atlanta Braves said Phil Niekro died in his sleep after a long battle with cancer.

Niekro spent 21 of his 24 years in major league baseball with the Braves, both in Milwaukee and Atlanta.

“Knucksie,” a nickname he picked up because of his frequent knuckleball use on the mound, pitched a franchise-record 740 games throughout his two decades of anchoring the Braves’ pitching rotation, and owns or shares 12 other career records.

From his first full season with the team in 1967, Niekro went 14 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins and 200 innings pitched, a streak that ended during the strike-shortened 1981 season.

The 12th no-hitter in franchise history also belongs to Knucksie, who pitched it on August 5, 1973, allowing three walks and striking out four batters in the 9-0 win over the Padres.

Niekro’s legacy extends down to the Braves farm system, where the best pitcher is presented with the annual Phil Niekro Award.

The five-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be sent to the Edmondson Telford Child Advocacy Center (603 Washington St. SW, Gainesville, GA 30501).

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