08/30/2005: For those of you who've always wondered....
Baseball writer (well, he's got a book published, it looks like, which is more than I'll ever accomplish in my wasted life) Al Pepper examines the origins of the term "Mendoza line", in the context of baseball stats (the quick and dirty explanation, for those of you who may be unclear on the concept: the "Mendoza line" is the notional boundary between those batters hitting above .200 and those hitting .200 and below).
Mr. Pepper starts his article with the definition of "Mendoza line" from Dickson's Baseball Dictionary (a most awesome work, btw; I own both the first and second editions, which reminds me that I need to check if Paul Dickson has revised it yet). The "original" meaning of "Mendoza line" was the division between hitters hitting over .215 and those hitting .215 and below; the reason for that being that the career batting average of Mario Mendoza (the player immortalized by the term "Mendoza line", of course) was .215. Since the introduction of the term, however, there's been some blurring of the line, and now the "standard" meaning of "Mendoza line" has settled at a batting average of .200.
I realize I rail against the standard usage in vain, but I think this sucks. As a long time admirer of Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker, who was himself a career .200 hitter, I think that, if anything, the .200 average should be immortalized as "the Uecker line". But for some reason (probably the fact that Mendoza had a longer career, by three seasons), it's Mendoza who's been immortalized as the embodiment of the .200 hitter, even if that apotheosis isn't quite accurate. Oh well.... At least that gives me the chance to end with a bit of Mr. Baseball's wit and wisdom:
Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. To last as long as I did with the skills I had, with the numbers I produced, was a triumph of the human spirit.
--Bob Uecker, lifetime .200 hitter
Len on 08.30.05 @ 06:58 AM CST