Philip Henry "Phil" Niekro (born April 1, 1939), nicknamed "Knucksie", is a former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. Niekro's 318 career victories are the most by a knuckleball pitcher and he ranks 16th on the overall all-time wins list. He also won the National League (NL) Gold Glove Award five times. Niekro pitched for 20 seasons for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. During his tenure in Atlanta, Niekro was selected for five All-Star teams, led the league in victories twice and earned run average once. Niekro was also a key to the only two division titles Atlanta won before 1991.
Phil and his brother Joe Niekro amassed 539 wins between them, the most combined wins by brothers in baseball history. Phil Niekro's 121 career victories after the age of 40 is a major league record, and his longevity is attributed to the knuckleball, which is a difficult pitch to master but is easy on the arm and often baffles hitters due to its unpredictable trajectory. He is also the uncle of former first baseman and pitcher Lance Niekro.
Niekro was the last MLB pitcher to have both won and lost 20 or more games in the same season; with the 1979 Braves, Niekro finished with 21 wins and 20 losses. His third and final 20-win season came in 1979; it was also the second and final year that he lost 20 games.
By Dean Hanley
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