Niekro sat out that season under transfer rules and then, last year, hit .368 with eight home runs and 44 RBIs as a freshman. His true coming out happened last summer, however, when he tore up the vaunted Cape Cod League, leading all players in home runs and RBIs while placing second in batting average with .360. Niekro's Cape manager, Don Norris, had never heard of him before the season. "But suddenly," Norris said last summer, "he's the best player in the league." He was also the first Division II representative to win the Cape MVP since Eckerd's Steve Balboni 22 years earlier.
That was hardly Niekro's summer highlight. In a late-season extra-inning game Norris, void of arms, summoned Niekro to the mound. Coolly, Niekro collected three outs for the save. His first pitch hit his catcher, Georgia Tech's Brian Price, in the face mask. It was, of course, a knuckleball.