With the death of Phil Nicero, baseball has lost The Neckball and its master

Necro learned the pitch he used from his father through 24 major league seasons, also named Phil, a Sandlot pitcher in Ohio who replaced it after an injury to his arm. It works great for young Phil in pickup games with neighborhood kids – including John Havelicek, future NBA Hall of Famer – That he never saw the need for other pitches.

“I had no idea there were knockball pitchers in the big leagues,” Nicaro said a few years ago. “I didn’t even know what a knockball was. It was something I enjoyed playing with my dad.”

Jim Bouton, author of “Ball Four” In 1959, it was great telling the story of meeting Nicaro in Kearney, Neb., When they were both 20 years old and just starting their pro careers. Bouton noticed Nikaro practicing his knockball in the outfield before a game, and the pitch was dancing.

Boughton threw several pitches, including a knockball, and asked Nikaro what else he threw. Nothing else, NIKERO replied, and Boughton felt pity for him. By 1963, Botan was winning 21 games for the Yankees and debuting in the World Series, while Nicaro still did not feature in the Majors.

“I missed him and I thought,” Oh, that poor kid, he’s still in the minor leagues and I don’t know how he hangs up, because I’m on my way to the Hall of Fame, “said Bouton , A few years before his death in 2019. “Well, guess what? That poor kid, limited to one pitch – he’s in the Hall of Fame now. It’s a good reminder for me of the turtle and the hare.”

In August 1966, Nicaro was 27 years old before he reached the majors for good, but his mastery of that one pitch gave him a staggering sort. He recorded his 30th birthday and 287 wins thereafter. He played more than 1000 innings from 1979 1979 to 19, when he averaged 19 wins and 19 defeats per season.

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