Mark Littell had a nine-year career as a pitcher with the Royals and Cardinals, and is now the author of “On The Eighth Day, God Made Baseball”, available on Amazon November 15.
“Everyone thinks I’m a hoot for some reason,” Littell said.
Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Littell joins Mark Twain in the author ranks. “He’s a crazy son of a bitch out of Missouri, too,” Littell said.
He started playing when he was six but couldn’t play catch with his dad who had been shot in the arm while serving in Korea. “He played one time with me and that was it,” Littell recalled. Littell’s mom, who was a nurse for 53 years, did the catching.
The Royals would sign Littell out of high school. Once signed, he was asked to throw batting practice in front of team representatives but reared back and had hitters swinging and missing. To top it off, Littell even picked a runner off first. The next day, Joe Gordon, the Yankees legend who was a scout for the Royals, asked where that country boy was, leading to Littell’s nickname “Country”. The antics of the right-hander didn’t hurt him.
“The college guys would give us s—. The high school guys were the ones who made it,” Littell said.
In 1976, Littell went 8-4 with a 2.08 ERA for the AL West champion Royals, who edged out the five-time defending Oakland A’s for the division title. Littell even received some MVP votes but is better remembered for giving up Chris Chambliss’ pennant-winning homer in game 5 of the ALCS.
Then the fans came on the field. “Someone’s foot was on the mound as I put my foot on the grass,” Littell said. “That’s how fast they got out there. I kicked the rubber, turned around and here are all these people around me but nobody touched me interestingly enough.”
Littell pitched for the 1977 Kansas City team that again lost to the Yankees in the ninth inning of the last game of the ALCS and then was traded to the Cardinals. His best season came in 1979, when he went 9-4 with a 2.19 ERA. He was also the winning pitcher in the game in which Lou Brock recorded his 3,000th hit. “I met Lou Brock at age 11,” Littell said. “It was his first week after being traded to the Cardinals and my dad recognized him in an elevator. My dad said we’re glad to have you over here.”
Littell would finish his career pitching 16 games for the 1982 World Champion Cardinals. The righty actually held the strikeout record for St. Louis relievers until a few years ago. When ESPN called to tell him his record was being broken he didn’t know what they were talking about. His reaction when he found out: “No s—.”
He coached for two decades in pro ball and now coaches an amateur team. He is also the inventor of the Nutty Buddy protective cup. People occasionally ask him what his qualifications are, if he’s some kind of engineer.
“No, I’m a redneck.”