Book Review: On the Eighth Day, God Made Baseball
by Paul Semendinger
One of the great pleasures I have as a writer is the opportunity to meet, talk with, and befriend many other writers. I am an active and contributing member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Through these venues, and others, I have the chance to talk about writing, publishing, baseball, and so much else.
A few weeks ago, in a SABR discussion, I had the opportunity to meet Heather-Rose Ryan who is working with the family of former Major Leaguer Mark Littell to complete his final book for publication. Mark Littell had previously published three other works:
I was recently provided a copy of On the Eighth Day, God Made Baseball. I enjoyed this book a great deal and, as such, am providing a review for that book here.
In the Yankees world, Mark Littell is known primarily for one particular pitch.
It was Mark Littell who served up the pitch that resulted in Chris Chambliss' famous home run that sent the Yankees to the World Series in 1976 - their first return to the World Series since 1964.
But, as a baseball player, and a person, Mark Littell, was, of course, so much more than that. This book, his baseball autobiography, tells so much more about him and his career in the big leagues.
Mark Littell first arrived in the big leagues in 1973 and then pitched in the Major Leagues from 1975-1982 with the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The book begins where most biographies begin, with his early life as a kid finding, and then falling in love with baseball. The tales Littell shares about growing up with the game are similar to the ones many have experienced, playing, dreaming, and hoping. The difference between Littell and the rest of us, of course, was that he had talent that was realized so the story takes us through his experiences in the minor leagues, at his first spring training, and then through his big league career.
Along the way, Mark Littell shares stories of his managers, coaches, and teammates. The great George Brett plays a large role. Littell has a great story-telling voice and recounts these years with great humor.
What is unique in this book is the fact that Littell is not afraid to make fun of himself. Many of his anecdotes hinge on his self-deprecating humor. For example, he shares a story about how he hit an old lady in Cleveland with an errant bullpen throw, and the cascade of disasters that ensued because of this.
Littell also demonstrates a knack for capturing characters with a brief bit of description and dialogue. He frequently refers to a special "baseball" phrase. There is also a great scene where Ted Simmons takes a drag off his cigarette and then squints up at Littell and says, "I can hit anybody"
Of course. Littell talks about the Chambliss homer and Chris Chambliss himself shares his own memories of that fateful day.
As I read the book, I was reminded again that baseball players are just people. Mark Littell had a career that in many ways will live on. His chapter recounting his career and his "Forrest Gump Baseball Statistics" helps to put his career into context. Like all of us, he was more than a moment, and more than a pitcher. Littell also wrote this book himself. It is his own unique story, told from his perspective.
This was an enjoyable and excellent baseball book.
I am very glad I had the opportunity to read and enjoy this book. I recommend it to all.