"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: Phil Niekro

Remember That?

I recently found a diary that I kept in 1985. I turned 14 that June. Pasted to the pages are ticket stubs  from the movies I saw (“View to a Kill,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”), from the Eric Clapton concert my mom took me to for my birthday, and the ball games I saw. There’s some writing in there, updates on Pony League games and school work,  but there’s more drawing than writing.

Here’s a few pages…

My man, Reggie.

Good ol’ Knucksie,  Phil Niekro.

In August my mother rented a cheap little cabin for a week out near the tip of Long Island. My twin sister, Sam,  and one of her friends came along with us. The highlight of the week was finally getting to see “Back to the Future,” which I’d be pining to see for weeks.

What I’ll remember most, however, is listening to the Yankees on the radio. The night before we left, I went with my father to see them play the first of a four-game series against the Red Sox. The Yanks won in extra innings and then won again on Saturday and Sunday too. On Monday afternoon, Ken Griffey made a great catch in the 9th inning as the Yanks swept the Sox.

Mom didn’t want us watching TV while we were on vacation  so I had to listen to the games on the radio. But I begged her to let me watch the news later that night to see the highlights and she did. The next day, Griffey’s catch was on the back page of the Daily News. We bought the paper and  I copied the picture into my diary.

That’s my favorite Yankee catch of the 1980s (which is saying something considering how many sick plays Winfield made).

Card Corner: Phil Niekro


Nearly 30 retired major leaguers will congregate at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown on Sunday for the first Hall of Fame Classic. The list of ex-Yankees who will participate includes Mike Pagliarulo, Kevin Maas, Phil Niekro, Jim Kaat, and Lee Smith. In the latest installment of “Card Corner,” we take a closer look at the man known as “Knucksie.”

Like fellow Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson and Billy Williams, Phil Niekro exudes gentlemanly class. Frankly, Leo “The Lip” Durocher was wrong when he said, “Nice guys finish last.” Some guys, like Niekro, might have played for a lot of last-place teams, but 318 career wins and a permanent residence in Cooperstown hardly qualify as “finishing last.”

During my tenure as a full-time employee at the Hall of Fame, I had the privilege of engaging Phil Niekro in several casual conversations and a few formal interviews. Whether Phil was in front of a microphone or not, he always behaved the same way. He didn’t like talking about himself—I never heard him brag about anything—but preferred steering credit in other directions.

On a Saturday night in Cooperstown in 2006, I watched Niekro behave in his typically dignified fashion. Along with several other retired ballplayers, Niekro was taking part in a roundtable discussion about the game in the Hall of Fame’s Grandstand Theater. As he sat next to his beloved brother Joe, who would pass away unexpectedly only three weeks later, Phil expressed only words of fond praise for his two-time teammate with the Braves and Yankees. “To get to play with your best friend, that’s an experience,” Phil said that evening. “I wish all brothers would get a chance to have that experience.”


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver