Born: Nov 7, 1944
Picked up from the Atlanta Braves for a paltry $35,000, 30-year-old knuckleballer Joe Niekro came to Houston hoping to find some stability for a career that had made Houston his fifth major-league home after just seven seasons. Eleven years later, Niekro had used his elusive knuckler to become the winningest pitcher in franchise history.
Niekro's career included 221 wins, 144 with Houston. He was named the team's Most Valuable Player in 1979, a season in which he won 21 games and finished second in the Cy Young voting. With 20 wins in 1980, he became the first Houston hurler with back-to-back 20-win seasons. Niekro was traded to the Yankees during the 1985 season for Jim Deshaies, leaving the club ranked #1 or #2 in all-time games pitched, starts, wins, complete games, and shutouts.
In 2006, Niekro died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. His death led his family to start the Joe Niekro Foundation to help research with the goal of helping diagnosis and prevention of aneurysms.