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Biofile: Phil Niekro Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Major League baseball pitcher from 1964-1987 for Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays.

DOB: April 1, 1939 In: Blaine, Ohio

First Baseball Memory: “Playing catch with my dad (Joe) in the backyard. He taught me the knuckleball.”

Baseball Inspirations: “So many.”

First Job: “Professional baseball. That I got paid for.”

Last Book Read: “And Then Came Angels.”

Nicknames: “Mine was Sonny. Everybody called me Sonny.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “I had a lot. Every time I won a game it was a good moment. But I think when I was eighteen years old and a Milwaukee scout came to my parents’ home, in the kitchen, and gave me the opportunity to put my name on a minor league contract. And I still think, to this day, think that was one of the greatest days of my life. Because I had that opportunity. And so many kids would love to do that, and want the chance. And of course, my first win, my last win, my 300th, no-hitter, there’s too many to count.”

Most Painful Moment: “When I got released by Atlanta Braves (1983).”

Funniest Player Encountered: “Bob Eucker.”

Closest Baseball Friends: “I think every guy I played with. I’ve got too many good friends that I’d hate to put one above the other.”

Favorite Sport Outside Baseball: “Fishing. Basketball.”

Three Athletes You Like To Watch & Follow: “RA Dickey right now. Steve Nash. I love to watch him. Basketball. John Havlicek.”

Strangest Game: “Started two games of a doubleheader one time in Atlanta. We got rained out. And I started the seventh inning, eighth, finished that game. Then I started the next game.”

Favorite Uniforms: “Well, I’m a little biased. Always thought Atlanta Braves was always good. They’re all uniforms. The uniforms doesn’t make you play any better or any worse. Be proud of what you’re wearing.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “Honesty. And I think a lot of athletes forget that kids look up to them. There’s always someone watching you play the game. I think there’s a lot of players nowadays that don’t realize that. We are role models. And a lot of guys don’t like to be role models. But we are rold models.”

Career Accomplishments: 318-274 record; 3.35 ERA; 3,342 strikeouts; Pitched shutout at age 46; Pitched no-hitter on August 5, 1973 vs. San Diego; 121 career wins after age 40; Five-time All Star and five-time Gold Glove winner; Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1997.

(Note: This Biofile was done in person with Phil at a New York Mets game. – SM)

Phil Niekro career highlights

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