Happy birthday, Mario Mendoza

Happy birthday to Mario Mendoza, who turns 59 today.

Mendoza, of course, was immortalized by George Brett.  For you young 'uns, back in the 70s and 80s, you didn't have current, up-to-date stats at your fingertips anytime you wanted them.  Most papers ran the extended statistics for all major leaguers in the Sunday paper, and they were sorted by batting average, top to bottom.

Brett famously claimed that, when he got the Sunday paper, the first thing he did was see who had dropped below the "Mendoza Line," referring to the .200 batting average mark.

Mendoza played for the Pirates for five years, and then the Mariners for two, before spending his last two years with the Rangers.  A shortstop, Mendoza was legendary for being useless offensively.  Mendoza had a career .215/.245/.262 line...he didn't hit for average, he didn't hit for power, and he didn't walk.  He was a career 12 for 20 basestealer, so he didn't run, either.  In his 8 full seasons in the majors, he had an OPS below 470 in four of them, and his season high OPS was 596.

Mendoza arrived in Texas as part of an epic 11 player trade between Texas and Seattle in December, 1980.  He was the Rangers' regular shortstop in the strike-shortened 1981 season, although Mark Wagner also got significant playing time at shortstop.  In 1982, he only played in 12 games before being released, with the Rangers trying, at various times, Doug Flynn, Nelson Norman, Wagner, Bucky Dent, and Wayne Tolleson at the position.

Ironically, Mendoza's final major league appearance was as part of an extra-inning game winning rally against one of the greatest relievers of all time.  The Rangers and Royals were tied 1-1 heading into the 12th, and Dan Quisenberry, in his second inning, allowed a single to Leon Roberts.  Mendoza was sent in to pinch hit for Larry Parrish, and he reached base on a sacrifice when the Royals tried unsuccessfully to get the force on Roberts.

That led to a 2 run rally and a 3-1 Rangers victory, with Mendoza scoring the final run of the game.  He came into the game at shortstop for the bottom of the 12th, caught a popfly from Frank White to end the game, and that was his last appearance as a major leaguer.

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