The countdown resumes with the Top 10.
Phil Niekro was a 27-year-old middle reliever with two career wins when the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. He was released 17 years and 266 wins later, the only baseball transaction to bring tears to my eyes.
For those of us who came of age as fans after Aaron and before Murphy, Knucksie was the Braves. Back then, you’d schedule trips to Fulco on nights when Niekro was on the mound, knowing he was your best chance at winning. From 1978 to ’79, the Braves recorded 135 wins; Knucksie accounted for 40 of them. Not bad for a 40-year-old.
Although he toiled for generally miserable teams, Niekro was at his best on those rare occasions when the Braves were relevant.
In 1969, he started and won three of the team’s last seven games — the difference between the division-winning Braves and the second-place Giants. In 1982, he hurled shutouts in two of the Braves’ last six games and also hit a key two-run homer run.
That’s five wins, two shutouts and a two-run homer in five of the team’s biggest games since moving to Atlanta.
It’s the stuff statues are made of.