1989 would be Joe Niekro's age 39 season and his last season as an above average pitcher. With game 39 being played today we'll look at Niekro's final full year with the Astros and beyond.
Niekro spent 11 seasons wearing an Astros uniform. From age 30 to age 40 he would post a 144-116 record with an 105 ERA+ for the Astros. On September 15, 1985 he would be traded to the New York Yankees for current broadcaster Jim Deshaies and two players to be named later.
That year he posted a 3.72 ERA in 213 innings, which resulted in a 11-13 record. The year before, 1984, he posted a 3.04 ERA in 248.1 innings and started a league leading 38 games, which resulted in a 16-12 record. Yes, 38 starts. His 109 ERA+ for that year would be the last time above 100 for him.
Among pitchers in their late 30's and beyond with at least 200 innings pitched that's the fourth best season by an Astros pitcher. The only two pitchers to top him are Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan who were both in their 40's.
Niekro would play parts of three seasons with the Yankees before wrapping up his career with the Minnesota Twins.
Joe Niekro passed away at the age of 61 in October of 2006 due to an aneurysm. While Joe didn't have the same type of Hall of Fame career his brother Phil had he certainly left his mark on Houston with a 144 wins and a couple of playoff appearances.
What resonates with me regarding Niekro, partly because I didn't get to see him pitch but mostly because it's inspirational, is Chelsea Baker who Joe taught to throw the knuckleball, at the age of 8. What's she done with that pitch?
Only throw two perfect games against Little League boys teams, and get asked by the Hall of Fame to donate her jersey.
Joe Niekro was taken to early, but left his mark on Houston, and he continues to leave his mark on baseball through the arm of a young girl.