Atlanta Braves: Power Ranking the Retired Numbers

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17. . SP. 1964-83, 1987. Phil Niekro. 35. player

Phil Niekro and his late brother Joe learned the knuckleball from their father to help them become Major League stars.  Knucksie, as Phil is affectionately referred to by Braves Country, recorded 268 of his 318 career wins and 2,912 of his 3,342 career strikeouts while pitching for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves over 21 Major League seasons.

Niekro threw 226 of his 245 complete games in Braves uniform.  Being the greatest knuckleballer of his general, Niekro had tremendous longevity as a Major Leaguer, retiring after the 1987 with the Atlanta Braves at the age of 48!

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Knucksie made 4 of his 5 All-Star Games while with the Braves (1969, 1975, 1978,1982), won all 5 of his Gold Gloves (1978-80, 1982-83) in Atlanta, and finished in the Top 10 for the NL Cy Young Award 5 times while with the Braves. It took until 2012 for a knuckleballer, New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey, to win the award.

Phil was also a major reason the Atlanta Braves won the National League West in both 1969 and 1982.  Knucksie won 20 games three times (1969, 1974, 1979) and boasted an impressive 3.20 ERA with the Atlanta Braves despite pitching most of his career in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, better known as the Launching Pad, as a knuckleballer.

Phil Niekro earned enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.  The only knock on Phil Niekro is that his teams didn’t win enough.  He only pitched in two career postseason games.  Plus, wouldn’t Braves Country have liked to have seen his 300th win or 3,000 strikeout pitching for the Atlanta Braves and not the New York Yankees?

Though Phil Niekro inspired many youth baseball pitchers to give the old knuckleball a try, I have to put him ninth on this all-time list and I don’t like it.  What I would have given to have been alive to see Knucksie pitch in his prime for the Atlanta Braves.

Next: 8. The Only Brave to Play in All 3 Stops