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Baseball World Pays Tribute To Braves Legend Phil Niekro

Atlanta Braves legend Phil Niekro at spring training.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 9: Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro of the Atlanta Braves waves to the fans prior to the Grapefruit League Spring Training game against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 9, 2008 at Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Phil Niekro, a baseball Hall of Famer and famous knuckleballer, passed away on Saturday night. He was 81 years old.

Few players in baseball history had Niekro's incredible longevity. The 1997 Cooperstown inductee won 318 games over his 24-year career, leading the national league in wins in 1974 and 1979.

He reached five All-Star games, making the Midsummer Classic in three different decades: 1969, 1975, 1978, 1982, and 1984. He was also a five-time Gold Glove winner, and led the NL in strikeouts in 1977.

Niekro began his career with the Milwaukee Braves, going with the team in their move to Atlanta. He spent the first 20 years of his career with the team, and went on to pitch for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Toronto Blue Jays before retiring back as an Atlanta Brave in 1987.

"Braves legend Phil Niekro passed away last night in his sleep after a long battle with cancer," the Braves announced in a press release today. "He was 81 years old.

"We are heartbroken on the passing of our treasured friend, Phil Niekro. Knucksie was woven into the Braves fabric, first in Milwaukee and then in Atlanta. Phil baffled batters on the field and later was always the first to join in our community activities. It was during those community and fan activities where he would communicate with fans as if they were long lost friends. He was a constant presence over the years, in our clubhouse, our alumni activities, and throughout Braves Country and we will forever be grateful for having him be such an important part of our organization. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy, sons Philip, John and Michael and his two grandchildren Chase and Emma."

This has been a particularly brutal year for baseball legends. Phil Niekro joins a growing list of those who have passed away in 2020, including other all-time great pitchers like Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver. He is the seventh member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to die this calendar year.

Our thoughts go out to Phil Niekro's family and friends, and everyone else affected by his tragic loss today.