Who was the better knuckleballer when you were younger, you or your brother Joe?
The only time we pitched against each other was the first year we pitched against each other in the big leagues, and then it got very competitive. Who's the best? I guess you have to ask the National and American hitters who faced both of us; I don't know. I'm gonna say him and he would have said me.
What type of tips do you have for aspiring knuckleballers?
Probably to get someone to teach you the ins and outs about it. If you're gonna be one, be a knuckleball pitcher and forget about all the other pitches.
Were you ever frustrated if you hit a guy with a knuckleball and it didn't hurt?
No! It would just bounce off of them, and they'd pick it up and say "try again". I wasn't the kind of guy that threw at guys. Maybe here and there and now and then, but certainly didn't try to hit 'em in the heads or nothin'.
Did you ever catch Dale Murphy drinking a Coke?
I never saw it. Being Mormon, he drank a lot of milk and water; I remember that.
Braves prediction: playoffs? Pennant?
Well both, really, being a Braves fan. They're gonna score runs, they're a little quicker, and the pitching is going to be a lot better than people think. I think for me the big key is can Chipper play all year. I think Freeman, the first baseman, they're gonna look to him to have a good year. If he does, they'll be fine, but I think pitching is going to be their strong point.
Would you say that pitchers are more babied these days than in yours?
I think it starts in the minor leagues, especially with starting pitchers. When they get to the big leagues from the minors, they're used to pitching six innings, and they figure that's their job. I wanna throw up when I hear six innings is a quality start right now.
Have you ever walked through the tiny door at the original Chick-fil-A Dwarf House?
No, but I'm a Chick-fil-A connoisseur, though. I mean, I love Chick-fil-A. And Arby's! Chick-fil-A and Arby's. If I'm gonna get away from the house and have something, it's probably those two. I don't eat out a lot.
Ah, just a plain Chick-fil-A sandwich with double pickle. Maybe a little fries on the side and a water. Arby's is the Beef 'n Cheddar. A little horseradish on there.
If you were to start a rival version of MLB, would you call it the Niekro League?
Oh, I don't know why a league would be named after me. I know there's a lot of guys who would have that named after them. But yeah, it would be an honor.
Pete Rose famously said...
[cuts us off] You'd have to ask him that. [laughs]
Photo by Shane Durrance