The light-hitting infielder’s name has become synonymous with poor hitting. In the 1970s when newspapers printed the batting leaders each Sunday, Mendoza’s name was usually near the bottom, often hovering at or below the .200 batting mark. Kansas City star George Brett is believed to be the first person to refer to the .200 mark as the “Mendoza Line.” As in: “He’s really struggling at the plate, he’s hitting well below the Mendoza Line.”
For his nine-year career in the majors, Mendoza actually hit above the line named for him: his batting average was .215 in 1,337 at-bats from 1974 to 1982. But he did hit below .200 in five different seasons, including in 1979 when he batted .198 while playing 148 games as the starting shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. Ironically, that season he batted over .300 against the pitcher who won the American League Cy Young Award: Mike Flanagan of the Baltimore Orioles.