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Astros career win leader dead at 61

Discussion in 'Houston Astros' started by ryan17wagner, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. ryan17wagner

    ryan17wagner Member

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    TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Former major league pitcher Joe Niekro, Houston's career victory leader, died Friday, Astros president Tal Smith said. He was 61.

    The two-time 20-game winner suffered a brain aneurysm Thursday and was taken to South Florida Baptist Hospital in nearby Plant City, where he lived. He later was transferred to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died.

    "It came as a real shock to us," Smith said. "He was a great guy. He had a real spark and a great sense of humor."

    Smith said Niekro did not have an active role with the Astros but kept in contact with many of his former Houston teammates.

    Niekro, father of San Francisco Giants first baseman Lance Niekro, won 221 games in his career but never became as well known as his Hall of Fame brother, Phil.

    Like his older brother, who won 318 games, Joe Niekro found success after developing the knuckleball and pitched into his 40s. They had a combined 539 major league victories, a record for brothers.

    Smith said he was told of Niekro's death by Enos Cabell, one of the Niekro's Astros teammates.

    "Enos said he just visited with him a few weeks ago in Cooperstown," Smith said. "Enos said he seemed healthy and full of life. This just came as a sudden shock."

    Niekro won a franchise-best 144 games in 11 seasons with the Astros from 1975 to 1985, when he was traded to the New York Yankees. He was an All-Star in 1979, when he went 21-11 with a 3.00 ERA and followed up with a 20-12 record in 1980.

    He beat the Dodgers in a one-game playoff that clinched Houston's first postseason berth in 1980. Seven years later, in his 21st season, he finally appeared in the World Series with the Minnesota Twins.

    Niekro was born on Nov. 7, 1944 in Martins Ferry, Ohio. A third-round draft pick of the Cubs in 1966, he broke into the majors in 1967 and appeared in 702 games, including 500 starts, in 22 years with the Cubs, Padres, Tigers, Braves, Astros, Yankees and Twins.

    Niekro, who once was suspended for getting caught on the mound with a nail file in his back pocket, pitched his final game in April 1988 -- at age 43. He finished 221-204 with a 3.59 ERA, including 144-116 with a 3.22 ERA for the Astros.

    Smith said the team was waiting on funeral arrangements before deciding how to honor Niekro.

    "He played a very prominent role in our first trip to the playoffs (in 1980)," Smith said. "He was very popular with our fans, and he was truly one of our all-time greats."
     
  2. Saint Louis

    Saint Louis Member

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    That sucks, RIP Knucksy.
     
  3. T Rex

    T Rex Contributing Member

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    I'll never forget that one-game playoff vs. the Dodgers where no one thought we had a chance. Joe came up huge that game and the Stros went on to win and went to the playoffs for the first time.

    A down to earth guy who never took it too seriously......RIP Joe.
     
  4. VooDooPope

    VooDooPope Love > Hate
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    He was one of my favorite players when i was younger.

    He and his brother may have been the last of the great knuckleballers.
     
  5. Fatty FatBastard

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    Aneurisyms are all about timing. My mom had one in March. It all depends on who you're with, and where you are that dictate whether you survive or not.

    R.I.P. Joe...
     
  6. swilkins

    swilkins Contributing Member

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    That's very true.

    RIP
     
  7. Major Malcontent

    Major Malcontent Contributing Member

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    RIP Knucksie.


    Seemed like a heck of a guy.

    The Astros pitching staff in those days was filthy. Can you imagine coming in for a 3 game series and facing Nolan Ryan's fastball...getting a change of pace in Joe's Butterfly and then back to J.R who might have thrown even harder than Nolan,
     
  8. hatemavs4life

    hatemavs4life Member

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    Sad story. Dont remember much about this era of the Stros because I moved to H-Town when I was 13. Started following the Stros in 86. Did see him pitch once at the Dome. Niekro was nails when he was here in the 80s. Wicked knuckler. Wish I could have seen JR pitch just once back in the day as well. Heard he was virtually unhittable.

    My dad passed away a few years ago from an apparent aneurysm. My mom was there and as she told me "there was no chance of bringing him back." Two minutes and he was gone. Aneurysms are evil and do not give you any fighting chances whatsoever. :(

    We'll miss you Knucksie! Take care. :(
     
  9. Plowman

    Plowman Contributing Member
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    Goodbye for now Joe.
     
  10. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    RIP Joe....


    More people should be throwing the knuckle ball...it is a devastating pitch.

    DD
     
  11. North Star

    North Star Contributing Member

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    He was with the Twins when they won their 1st World Series back in 1987. As a Twins fan, I want to express my gratitude for everything he has contributed to that team. RIP.
     
  12. leroy

    leroy Contributing Member

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    RIP, Joe. :(
     
  13. rrj_gamz

    rrj_gamz Contributing Member

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  14. MONON

    MONON Member

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    Its always sad news when your sports heros pass on, especially when they are the same age.

    RIP, Phil!!!
     

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