Hall of fame pitcher Phil Niekro, 70, recalled his fondest baseball memories and answered questions about his career last Friday at Chestatee Golf Club.
Invited as the guest speaker by the Jaycees of Dawson County, Niekr (or Knucksie for his famous knuckleball that won him 318 career victories with the Milwalkie and Atlanta Braves) talked about his career, his accomplishments and his brother, who died in 2006.
“Joe and I were as close as two brothers could be. I never loved anyone in the world like I loved my brother,” Niekro said.
Phil and Joe Niekro are the winningest brother combination in baseball history, with 539 wins combined.
The brothers, who neither played little league back in Ohio, learned to throw their knuckleball from their father Joe Sr. in their backyard.
Phil Niekro admits: “I had no idea where the knuckleball was going. I just knew I had to make the strike zone.”
Niekro said his fondest memory was the feeling he had when a talent scout walked into his parents home, offered him the chance to play professional ball and he was able to put his name on a professional contract.
“My motivation was that I didn’t want to go back to Ohio and work the coal mines like my father. Everyday, I didn’t let that thought leave me,” he said.
Niekro said he knew he wasn’t the best player. He also knew he didn’t have the best arm, but he said he never forgot how fortunate he was.
“My philosophy was that sooner or later I’m going to beat them, so I tell you,” Niekro addressed the group of young professionals. “Never give up. Don’t be defeated, and you’ll come out on top.”
Niekro was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1997. He currently lives in Flowery Branch.
The Jaycees of Dawson County is part of a national organization geared toward young professionals between the ages of 21 and 39 that works to support their communities through service and social projects.
The group meets monthly at Chestatee Golf Club.
For more information, call Clint Bearden at (706) 344-3933 or (706) 974-8870.