Phil Niekro died Saturday night in his sleep after a long battle with cancer. He was 81.
Niekro, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, was one of baseball's most prolific and durable pitchers, using his "butterfly" pitch to win 318 games in a career that spanned 24 seasons, including 21 with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves.
"We are heartbroken on the passing of our treasured friend, Phil Niekro," the Braves said in a statement. "Knucksie was woven into the Braves fabric, first in Milwaukee and then in Atlanta. Phil baffled batters on the field and later was always the first to join in our community activities. It was during those community and fan activities where he would communicate with fans as if they were long lost friends.
"He was a constant presence over the years, in our clubhouse, our alumni activities and throughout Braves Country and we will forever be grateful for having him be such an important part of our organization.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Nancy, sons Philip, John and Michael and his two grandchildren Chase and Emma."