Another Great Evening Pitched For LIFE

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Richard Klucznik Natalie Niekro
Joe Niekro Medical Humanitarian of the Year, Dr. Richard Klucznik with son Jake and JNF Founder, Natalie Niekro

The Joe Niekro Foundation hosted the 4th Annual Knuckle Ball…A Pitch for Life on September 7th at Hotel Zsa Zsa in Houston, TX.  Natalie Niekro, chair of the black tie gala, welcomed more than 350 supporters and athletes, to honor her father, former Houston Astros pitcher, Joe Niekro.

The Joe Niekro Foundation was established after Niekro’s tragic and sudden death in 2006 from a brain aneurysm. The foundation  funds aneurysm research, treatment and awareness. Because of Niekro’s love for the Houston Astros and the city of Houston, The Knuckle Ball is held in the city that gave the Niekro family their greatest memories.  Not only is Houston the chosen city for this event, but the foundation made sure that the September date had an equally strong connection to the cause.  You see, September is nationally recognized as Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month and The Joe Niekro Foundation used this as an additional platform to educate those attendees on the importance of early detection, research and awareness of these silent killers.

Host of Great Day Houston and KHOU broadcaster, Deborah Duncan, was the evening’s emcee.  She shocked the crowd with her story of survival and her passion for this cause, informing all of her life changing event in 1997 when she  experienced a ruptured brain aneurysm.  You could hear a pin drop as she told her story of how she fought back and promised herself that if she made it through, that meant she had more to do.  Her more to do was philanthropy and that is exactly what she has done!

There was lively bidding during the silent auction followed by a dinner and a live auction. The Joe Niekro Medical Humanitarian of the Year Award recognized Dr. Richard P. Klucznik, Associate Professor of Radiology and Director of Interventional Neuroradiology at The Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, for his ongoing research advancements and treatment studies of cerebral aneurysms.

Guests mingled with some of sports greatest legends throughout the evening, including:

Dave Bergman – MLB 1st Baseman – New York Yankees, Houston Astros, SF Giants and Detroit Tigers

Larry Dierker – MLB Pitcher – Houston Colt .45’s/Astros and St. Louis Cardinals (1964-1977), MLB  Manager (1997-2001) Houston Astros

Jose Cruz – MLB Outfielder – St. Louis Cardinals (1970-74), Houston Astros (1975-87) and New York Yankees (1988), MLB Coach – Houston Astros, Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Houston Astros (2009-present)

John Egan – NBA Point Guard – Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Baltimore Bullets, LA Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets (1961-1972), NBA Coach – Houston Rockets (1973-1976)

Jim Foor – MLB Pitcher – Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates (1971-1973)

Alphonso Roundtree – NFL Defensive Back  – Miami Dolphins (2003-2005)

Scipio Spinks – MLB Pitcher – Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals (1969-1973)

As many as one in 50 Americans will develop a cerebral aneurysm; 10 to 15 percent of these individuals will die before reaching the hospital. More than 50 percent will die within the first 30 days after rupture. Of those who survive, more than half suffer permanent neurological deficit. Funds are used to support ongoing research, educate the public about brain aneurysms, and to develop awareness programs and educational materials for hospitals, clinics, and other institutions nationwide. For more info, visit

Click here to see the 4th Annual Knuckle Ball photo gallery!

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