04
Jun
09

Reflections from 1980

Two days ago while sitting in my office burning the candle at both ends as I always do, I received a call from a dear friend of Dad’s and former Detroit Tiger, Jon Warden. As soon as I answered, Jon asked me if I subscribed to the MLB Network. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to answer that question…of course I do, baseball is and always will be in my blood, so I eat, sleep and breathe it everyday. Although I thought it a strange question, I went along with it and Jon proceeeded to inform me that the MLB Network was currently airing Game 3 of the 1980’s playoff series, Astros vs. Phillies. And who else but Knucksie himself was pitching. I immediately called home to my husband for him to record it and that night, I took a trip down memory lane, back to the era of the multi-striped uniforms, feathered and long, big hair and of course, The Astrodome. Over 43,000 fans screamed as my Dad pitched 10 complete scoreless innings, baffling the batters with his fierce Knuckleball and calm, cool and collective presence on the mound. Dad’s technique was truly amazing and as the game entered the bottom of the 11th, my excitement of what I knew was to come overwhelmed me. Even though I knew what the next few minutes had in store, I yelled, jumped and cheered as if it were happening live. As Joe Morgan led off with a stand up triple, proceeded by two intential walks, the pressure was on Denny Walling. His sacrifice fly to shallow left field was enough to bring pinch runner, Rafael Landestoy, home. Three hours, eleven innings and several screams at the TV later, the Astros prevailed. I have always been beyond proud to be a Niekro and watching Dad on that mound, working over those batters and never losing site of the ultimate goal, only re-inforced that honor. My memories of those days will never fade, nor will my love for the game. Fan Forever, Natalie Niekro

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