2020: The MLB Hall of Fame’s doleful year

Jul 20, 2019; Cooperstown, NY, USA; National baseball hall of fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark greets Hall of Famer Phil Niekro as he arrives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Parade of Legends. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2019; Cooperstown, NY, USA; National baseball hall of fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark greets Hall of Famer Phil Niekro as he arrives at the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Parade of Legends. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phil Niekro, the seventh Hall of Famer to die in 2020, was elected in 1997, his fifth year on the ballot. Niekro received 80 percent of the vote.

Niekro came to the major leagues with Milwaukee in 1984, and pitched with the Braves through 1983. He won 268  games for the Braves, 21 of them in 1979.

Released by the Braves at the end of the 1983 season, he signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees. Niekro was 44 at the time. He was 16-8 for New York in 1984, and after his release at the end of the 1985 season signed as a free agent with Cleveland.

As a knuckle ball pitcher, Niekro’s strength was durability. Four times he led the league in innings pitched, each of them above 300 innings. He threw 342 innings in 1979, making him one of the last pitchers to top the 300-inning mark for a single season.

Between 1977 and 1980 he averaged 42 starts per season.