A bullpen pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals named Mark Littell passed away on Monday. He had 69 years on him. As of publication, the exact cause of death remains unknown.
Former reliever Mark Littell passed away at age 69
When Littell graduated from high school in the small Missouri town of Gideon in 1971, the Royals selected him in the first round. In June 1973, he would make his major league debut. Despite uneven results, Littell played in eight games during his first campaign. He regrettably missed the entire 1974 season due to arm surgery.
Although he rejoined the Royals in August 1975, it wasn’t until 1976 that his presence was felt. During that campaign, manager Whitey Herzog changed his strategy and primarily used him as a relief player. From 1976 to 1980, Littell completed 169 games and excelled as a reliever.
With a 2.08 ERA, he had his finest overall season in 1976. In 104 innings, he struck out 92 batters to help the Royals advance to the ALCS. With Littell pitching well once more, the Royals again missed the World Series by one victory in 1977. The Royals dealt Littell and Buck Martinez to the Cardinals during the summer in exchange for Al Hrabosky.
With 11 SO/9, Littell had a career-high in 1978 and once more had an ERA under 3. He had a successful year in 1979 as well, but in 1980 his impact started to decrease. As manager of the Cardinals, Herzog used Littell all the way up until his retirement in 1982. Again, Littell was denied the opportunity to make a World Series start.
Despite the squad winning the championship, Littell had already given up playing because of bone spurs in his elbow. Littell is perhaps best recognized for being on the wrong side of two major events, despite his achievements. In Game Five of the ALCS, Littell allowed Chris Chambliss to hit the game-winning home run.
Even though it was just the second home run he allowed that season, it became legendary as the New York Yankees defeated the Royals in the first three straight Championship Series. Five years later, Littell would concede the hit that would elevate Pete Rose to the top spot in the National League’s all-time hits list.
On August 10th, 1981, the Cardinals played the Philadelphia Phillies, and Stan Musial, whose record Rose would shatter, was present. After his career pitching in the major leagues was over, Littell didn’t completely leave baseball behind. Over the years, he continued to be involved in coaching children and at different other levels while working as a minor league pitching coach for numerous clubs.
On the Eighth Day, God Made Baseball, Country Boy: Conveniently Wild, and What’s Up Ramrod are two volumes on Littell’s life in baseball that he eventually wrote. Littell is known for his funny stories. Additionally, Littell created the Nutty Buddy, a protective cup with a unique appearance. Littell was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
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