Joseph Franklin Niekro
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Joe Niekro, who won more than 200 games in the major leagues, died on Oct. 27, 2006 in Tampa, Fla. Niekro had suffered a brain aneurysm. He was 61.
Niekro, the brother of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and the father of Major League player Lance Niekro, was Houston's career leader in pitching victories at the time of his death.
He pitched in 702 games in his 22-year career and posted a 221-204 record with 16 saves. He recorded 1,757 strikeouts and a career 3.59 ERA. He was an All-Star in 1979 and led the National League with 21 wins. He was named The Sporting News Pitcher of Year that season.
Niekro found success with the knuckleball and pitched in the major leagues until he was 43.
He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the third round of the 1966 draft and he made his major league debut with the Cubs. In April 1969, the Cubs sent him to the Padres, along with Frankie Libran and Gary Ross, for Dick Selma. In December 1969, he was traded by the Padres to the Tigers for Pat Dobson and Dave Campbell.
The Brave selected him off waivers from the Tigers in 1973 and, in April 1975, his contract was purchased by the Astros for $35,000.
Niekro won 144 games in 11 seasons with the Astros. In 1980, he pitched the Astros to a victory in a one-game playoff with the Dodgers that sent Houston to its first postseason appearance. In his career, he pitched 20.0 innings in postseason appearances (1980 NLCS, 1981 NLDS, 1987 World Series) and finished with a 0.00 ERA.
His career with the Astros ended on Sept. 15, 1985 when he was traded to the New York Yankees, along with players to be named later, for Jim Deshaies.
In June 1987, he was traded to the Twins for Mark Salas. In 1987, at the age of 42, Niekro appeared in his first World Series game with the Minnesota Twins.
That season also provided an infamous moment. On Aug. 3, 1987, Niekro, while pitching against California was caught with a fingernail file on the mound. He was ejected from the game and suspended for 10 games. Niekro maintained that he had been filing his nails on the bench and had put the file in his back pocket with the inning started.