Phil Niekro (by Rusty S.)

Phil Niekro made his major league debut the year I was born; 18 years later, he pitched the Braves to their 2nd NL West Division title.

The 43-year-old Niekro went 17-4 for the Braves that 1982 season, a team that ended up 16 games over .500, and whose only other starter with a record above .500 was the rather pedestrian Bob Walk. He was able to accomplish this record due to the fact that he was a wizard and possibly a Highlander [citation needed]. The highlight of the season came the final weekend, with the Braves nursing a one-game lead over the Dodgers. Niekro hit the last of his seven major league home runs en route to a complete game 3-0 shutout over the Padres. I defy any supporter of the designated hitter to counter with a moment as cool as this:

Niekro started the first game of the 1982 National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, and threw 4 shutout innings before the game was called due to rain, with the Braves leading 1-0. Game One was replayed in its entirety the next day with Pascual Perez taking the loss for the Braves. Niekro came back on two days’ rest to pitch game two, and he left after six innings with a 3-2 lead. The bullpen took the loss, and the Braves subsequently lost game three to complete the sweep.

In 1979, at age 40, Niekro had his career high in innings pitched — 342 — one of four seasons in which he topped 300 IP. He won the last of his five Gold Glove awards at age 44, and made his final All-Star team at age 45, with the Yankees. In his spare time, he made relief appearances in 19 of his 24 major league seasons.

With 318 wins and 3342 strikeouts, Phil Niekro was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the year I turned 33.

58 thoughts on “Phil Niekro (by Rusty S.)”

  1. I was in UGA Law School and now retired Associate Dean / Professor Paul Kurtz brought a TV into the classroom (for Domestic Relations) and we watched the soon to be rained out Game 1. If Braves win 1, I think they could have taken that series.

  2. Hated that series for Knucksie — that season felt like his last hurrah, even though it turned out not to be, and he was ready to put the team on his back. That rainout was a killer.

  3. For NLCS Game 1 in ’82, I was in a UGA history class my sophomore year. The professor let us out about 5 minutes early & I practically sprinted home to watch it.

    That rainout was indeed a killer for that Braves club, an 89-win team that certainly didn’t have a frightening rotation.

  4. A year before I was born. Certainly everything bad that could happen to us in the playoffs has already happened, yes?

  5. @5, this is exactly what I was thinking. What does it take to be the lucky team for once in a lifetime?

  6. It would be an interesting turn of events if Riley becomes the face of the franchise and we look back and see that we traded BJ Upton for him.

  7. #11
    I’m doing my year-end-music stuff this week & Kendrick would certainly make the cut.

    Leaning toward the Sufjan Stevens record, though. It’s not something you’d really play for people–it’s pretty quiet/intense, but it’s terrific. Like a great Elliott Smith record, it never leaves you. Maybe the one CD I’ll be listening to 10 years from now.

    And I know I sound like a lunkhead, but I played the Thunderbitch record (Bama Shakes’ toss-off project) a whole lot more than “Sound & Color.”

  8. @11 Didn’t hear “Baroness,” but he might want to give “To Pimp A Butterfly” a couple more listens.

  9. I usually jones on records after the fact–this past year was mostly Beyonce’s self-titled, If You’re Feeling Sinister, and Sturgill for me (all now among my all-time favorites)–but I’ve had a hard time NOT listening to Kendrick’s since I got it a few months back. What a rush. Something that Democrips and Rebloodicans can enjoy.

    2015 runners up for me are Joanna Newsom and Sufjan Stevens. The first is delightful; the other’s haunting.

    Also: High marks for some of the arrangements on Natalie Prass’s debut, and for Tame Impala’s “Lover from a Past Life” which makes me laugh every time I hear it.

  10. Not much in the way of new music for me in ’15, but I enjoyed the new Beach House and Sleater/Kinney. I’ll pick up Sufjan Stevens on your recommendations — “Illinois” is all I own by him.

    (Also need to do my semi-annual check in on The Fall…last I listened to, Mark E. Smith was in his “complaining about his doctors” phase….)

  11. I read Mark E. Smith’s book, which (as one might imagine) had quite a lot of hysterical snark. He’s not quite Noel Gallagher level on that score, but he’s close. (Gallagher on late-White Stripes-era Jack White: “He’s Zorro on donuts.”)

    Liked the Sleater-Kinney CD OK, but I caught them here last week & that material really came alive. Now I’m digging that record a whole lot more.

    BTW, their encore that night: A completely faithful version of “Rock Lobster” with Fred Armisen out front on cowbell, channeling Fred Schneider to the max.

  12. @5 – For those who were not around, I liken that ’82 team to a 15 seed that gets a 13-0 lead, and you start to think – could this really happen? Then you spend the rest of the game (season) sweating out the inevitable collapse. But just every so often, one of them hangs on. How sweet it was.

    The playoffs were just gravy to me, but yeah, I’m still bitter that they couldn’t get that first game in. (A day game. In a stadium with artificial turf.)

  13. I never did get into that SK record. Of course, SK have always left me meh. If you want head crunching female fronted punk rock, pick up War On Women’s self titled release instead.

  14. With better meteorology, Perez starts Game 1 and the Braves win that series. With better seismology, the As and Giants play their series in Atlanta (saw San Andreas last night)

  15. What’s the difference, in this culture, between a game and a sport? Any? I mean the noun you would instinctively apply to, say, Baseball and/or NFL. If one retains its basic innocence, the other lost it, does that change the nomenclature you would use talking of it?

    I have a rant in mind. Simply as an alternative to Baroness and Purple, mind you.

  16. How are they going to evaluate all of these options so quickly? I’m confident there are 7 good options in the pen, but how are they going to know?

  17. @27 It seems quite clear that if Jason Heyward was willing to turn down $200M from the Cardinals – a team which won 100 games last year and retains a strong core – he certainly wasn’t going to take whatever underwhelming deal he would’ve received from the Braves even if the Braves had opted to keep JHey for the 2015 season.

    Overall, I’d say the Cards-Braves Jason Heyward trade turned out well for STL (they got a great season at a position of need) and amazing for the Braves (one quite good season of Shelby Miller plus Tyrell Jenkins; Miller then swapped along with non-prospect Gabe Speier in exchange for Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Inciarte). All in all, the Braves turned 1 year of Jason Heyward into what could easily become an All-Star level shortstop, a first-division CF, and two serviceable starting pitchers. If that comes to pass, I’d say the Braves did at least as well on the aggregate selling JHey as the Cardinals once did sending JD Drew to the Braves for Adam Wainwright. Quite a thought…

  18. Alexi Ogando
    learned all about pitching from Brando
    coulda been a contenda
    till Stella found reason to question his genda.

  19. @9
    Tax question. When a kid like Riley is suddenly catapulted into the top tax bracket with his 1.5M is it a legitimate ploy with the IRS if he and the Braves agreed instead to 5 equal annual payments – he’s not likely to make anything that significant on top of that during those years.

  20. I read somewhere that bonuses could be broken up for tax purposes. I am guessing that a 1.6 million dollar bonus would be taxed at 40%. That’s an ouchy. But please don’t take my word for it.

    Its going to be interesting to see if the 19 year olds, Riley and Davidson can start moving up the minors ladder.

  21. Cunniff outrighted. I thought we already had enough room on the 40-man. Are we trying to make room for someone?

  22. Cunniff was DFA’d in order to sign Bonifacio. The ‘outright’ isn’t a roster move, so much as the final result of his having cleared waivers. After clearing waivers, we could retain him by outrighting him to Gwinnett, or we could part with him by releasing him.

  23. Jhoulys many knew
    as Chacin a son particular Gout
    Caracan, always sore,
    he is attempting to pitch un petit peu more.

  24. Tropical Storm Nicholas continues to pound North Carolina. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas, or Happy Winter Solstice celebration of your choice.

  25. Did Chacin have some injury issues?

    Looks like he had solid seasons with the Rockies in 2010 & 2011, then not much in 2012. He then bounced back and had a nice season in 2013. But then 2014 & 2015 were limited.

  26. For some reason, Matt Marksberry’s face annoys me. He seems like a nice enough guy, but I hate the face. If we can keep him off the roster by signing guys like Chacin and Ogandi, do it.

  27. Fun fact: The 1981 Braves included the only two pitchers born in the 20th century to pitch over 6000 professional innings (non-Negro League division), Niekro (6019) and Gaylord Perry (6242). Niekro’s 22677 batters faced trails only Cy Young, Pud Galvin, and Walter Johnson.

  28. Maybe they think defense is overrated and want to prove it by improving the Mets’ infield d?

  29. Watching MLB Network tonight, I learned that fans booed Glavine for being a player representative at the beginning of ’95. Is that legit, or was the show exaggerating?

  30. @51 not only being a player representative, but also for being one of the player reps in the forefront of the strike negotiation in 1994. If I remember right, he was very active in the media representing the union.

  31. a Happy Day to all.

    Hector Olivera
    might it not all be fairer
    to start him at short
    for what we could claim is the love of the sport.

    Austin Riley
    has always been regarded so highly
    the Nats offered Bryce
    we’re asking the Angels to send us Trout, twice.

    Adonis Garcia
    so susceptible to injury we fear
    for the farciable future
    we pray for the absence of plaster and suture.

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