Braves legends, fans remember Phil Niekro for his Hall of Fame personality, influence on pitchers

ATLANTA — The baseball world lost one of its greatest pitchers with the passing of Phil Niekro. The Baseball Hall of Famer died Saturday at the age of 81 following a battle with cancer.

Tributes have been pouring in from his fellow Braves legends, players and fans of the game.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Braves teammate and fellow legend Dale Murphy

“Nancy and I are deeply saddened by the news today of the passing of Phil Niekro. Knucksie was one of a kind. Friend, teammate, father and husband. Our hearts go out to Nancy Niekro, the kids and grandkids. So thankful for our memories and time together. We’ll miss you, Knucksie.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker

“What a great ambassador for the Atlanta Braves,” Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday. “This year, we probably lost two of the greatest fans of the Atlanta Braves in Mr. B (former owner Bill Bartholomay) and Knucksie. I used to tell players there wasn’t a bigger fan of our players, our organization than Phil Niekro. How this guy lived each and every day, I’ve never seen somebody (make the most of a day) like this guy did. He’d always be so positive. Always have a smile on his face.”

Braves first baseman and NL MVP Freddie Freeman

Ugh heartbroken! An amazing pitcher but an even better man! Thank you Phil for all the laughs and wonderful memories over the years! #RIPKnucksie

Braves legendary pitchers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz

“When you’re an athlete or celebrity to some extent, there will inevitably be people who don’t like you for whatever reason, even though they don’t know you. But you never heard that about Knucksie. Everybody loved him.”

“He was the greatest. There’s not an adjective or word to describe how special he was and what he meant to not only the Braves organization but anyone who was around him, he made you feel like you were the only hall of famer in the building. "

Braves legend and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones

Former infielder and Braves commentator Jeff Francouer

“So sad to hear about the passing of knucksie. One of the most unassuming hall of famers of all time. He also told the best stories of all time. Rest In Peace my friend.”

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Former Braves outfielder and current analyst Brian Jordan

“RIP Phil Niekro. To a great man both on and off the field. You were a great example for what athletes should aspire to be. Phil had a huge heart to bring joy to others. He cared so much for kids and had a fantastic foundation. Continue to bring the joy in heaven my friend.”

Channel 2 Sports Director Zach Klein:

“Phil Niekro was a beautiful man & so much fun to be around. Always loved playing golf with him and couldn’t stop laughing every time he brought out his fake rattle snake to put on the cart of others. RIP Knucksie”

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred

“Phil Niekro was one of the most distinctive and memorable pitchers of his generation,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. “In the last century, no pitcher threw more than Phil’s 5,404 innings. His knuckleball led him to five All-Star selections, three 20-win seasons for the Atlanta Braves, the 300-win club, and ultimately, to Cooperstown. But even more than his signature pitch and trademark durability, Phil will be remembered as one of our game’s most genial people. He always represented his sport extraordinarily well, and he will be deeply missed. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my condolences to Phil’s family, friends and the many fans he earned throughout his life in our National Pastime.”

Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte

Wow. He was more of a hall of famer as a person. I feel like you truly get to admire someone once you know how they care about others. May you Rest in peace Knucksie.”

Former Braves pitcher R.A. Dickey

“So sad today. Phil Niekro helped me in a profound way to change the course of my career and life. I was perpetually moved by his kindness, wisdom, and sense of humor. What a man! He will be missed. Thank you Phil!”

Country singer and Braves fan Josh Turner

“I’m super bummed to hear about the passing of Phil Niekro aka Knucksie. He was a one-of-kind pitcher and person. I was privileged to have met him and even have a display case with his signed jersey, baseball, pics, and baseball cards in my cottage. We’ll miss you Phil! Go Braves!”

Cleveland Indians, where Phil and his brother Joe pitched

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot, longtime Braves fan and Atlanta native

“Phil Niekro was my favorite Brave growing up. Literally, I just watched video yesterday of his last appearance on the mound for Atlanta in 1987. This breaks my heart. Breaks my heart!”

Comments on this article