Twenty-six years ago — on June 9, 1985 — Joe Niekro surpassed Larry Dierker to become the winningest pitcher in Astros history. On the anniversary of that achievement, we take a look back on Niekro’s career. Click here to view pictures.
Joe Niekro is mostly remembered for his days with the Houston Astros, which he joined at the age of 30 at the beginning of the 1975 season after being purchased from the Braves. Over half his career innings and wins came with the Astros.
He notched 20+ victories two times during that span, when he was 34 and 35 years old in 1979 and 1980. In 1979, Niekro led the National League in Wins and Shutouts and was largely responsible for leading the Astros to the NLCS playoffs.
In 1979, when the Astros contended until the final week of the season for the National League West Division title, Niekro was 21-11, tying for the National League lead in victories with his brother, Phil. The next year, Niekro was 20-12, becoming the first Houston pitcher to win 20 games in a season twice.
Niekro retired in 1988 with a lifetime record of 221-204. Post retirement, Niekro spent his time devoted to helping his son Lance pursue his baseball career, never missing one of Lance’s practices or games. Joe’s effort paid off; in 2000 Lance was drafted in the 2nd round by the San Francisco Giants where he played for seven years, followed by The Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves.
Joe, along with his brother Phil, hold the record for the most wins by two brothers, with 539, in the history of baseball and Joe holds the record of the winningest pitcher in Houston Astros history. In 2005, Niekro was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame.
Today Niekro’s legacy lives on through The Joe Niekro Foundation, committed to the awareness and funding for brain aneurysm research, treatment and education. Joe’s daughter, Natalie Niekro, started the foundation in 2006 and has raised over $2 million for aneurysm research, treatment and education during that time. To find out more about The Joe Niekro Foundation, click here.