The Mendoza Line and the most famous non-superstar athlete ever
If you follow baseball, you’ve heard this: The Mendoza Line is a .200 batting average, thought to be the line between earning your keep with a big league team and being sent down to the minor leagues.
Even the best defensive witches in the field have to be able to hit; if they do not, eventually a ball club will find someone who can. It isn’t quite as big a deal now as it was a while back, but as the end of May nears, Major League teams will soon start the call ups and send downs to alter their rosters, and the Mendoza line is a factor in determining which position player(s) should start packing.
But who is this "Mendoza" and why is he the baseline for mediocrity?
You are looking at Mario Mendoza, possibly the most famous non-superstar athlete ever. Think about it, with the exception Shaquille O’Neal (Hack-a-Shaq), no other sport has a single player associated with borderline success like baseball. Is there a Curry Line in the NBA? Eddie Curry had an astounding -153 (subtract his 295 turnovers from his 68 assists, 34 steals and 40 blocks) in the 2006/7 season NBA season.
What about the JaMarcus Line? JaMarcus Russell might be, statistically speaking, the worst quarterback in NFL history (52% completion rate, 18 td’s, 23 picks in 3 years), but he isn’t a universal benchmark.
How did this happen to Mendoza? Someone who ironically enough is a lifetime .215 hitter, and while bouncing around the big leagues, was not sent down to the minor leagues and called up like you would expect.
The native of Chihuahua had an eight-year career with Pittsburgh, Seattle and the Texas Rangers before retiring in 1982. Since then, he’s been managing in the minors, scouting in the Majors and was inducted into the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
He was a defensive whiz in his day and actually pitched in relief for Pittsburgh once, making him a jack-of-all-trades. So how does this guy become the guy? Thank George Brett.
In 1979 Mendoza, a Seattle Mariner at the time, was flirting with .200 most of the season, something teammates Bruce Bochte and Tom Paciorek teased him about. In fact, he was hovering at or below .200 for so long that they started calling it “the Mendoza Line.”
All-Star George Brett, starting slow for Kansas City that year, got some grief from Botche and Paciorek about his lack plate success — they warned him to stay above that “Mendoza Line.” Brett used the phrase in an interview and later told Chris Berman, who probably looked like this when he did.
Berman being Berman, he rode it into the common baseball vernacular that we know today. And then, as he is prone to do, he rode it into the ground.
So there you go, the story of the Mendoza Line. Now you have a great happy hour story that all the ladies will surely love. Seriously, they will. Right? It has to be true.