Sunday, July 4, 2010

Retro Mariner Sunday 7/4/10

It's Sunday, that means it time to back in Mariners history. Today is a national holiday here in the USA. Our player today is in the hall of fame in another country. His name is a thing of legend in the American pastime. Today's Mariner was only with the team for two years, and had his best hitting season in Seattle. If you know of the Mendoza line, then you know Mario Mendoza.

After growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico, Mario would be signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970. He would play rookie ball for the GCL Pirates and would hit .263 and be outstanding defensively. While playing for the Monroe Pirates in 1971, his average would slide to .234. During the spring training years, Mario would often miss dinner to listen and try to learn from the great Roberto Clemente. His average would continue to fall in 1972 with the Salem Pirates, going down to .221. His defense was outstanding, being involved in 79 double plays that year. His year of 1973 with the AA Sherbrooke Pirates was a bi-polar year. While he would raise his average to .268 with 8 home runs and 30 stolen bases, he would have 227 putouts, but also 35 errors. This would be the high mark for averages in his career. He would make the Eastern League All-Star team as the shortstop.

For the next three years from 1974-1976, Mario would spend most of his time with the Pirates, but would also spend time in those seasons with the AAA Charleston Charlies. He would first appear in a game on April 26, 1974 as a pinch runner for the great Willie Stargell. He would finally get his first start on May 15, 1974 At Three Rivers Stadium against the Chicago Cubs. He would get his first hit the next day on the 16th. Mario would get the start in game three of the 1974 NLCS against the Dodgers. Mario would also get the game winning hit on Opening Day of the 1976 season, in the 11th inning off Tug McGraw of the Phillies. While he would only have two years(1974, 1978) with the Pirates that he would hit over .200, his defensive was solid and split time with Frank Tavares at shortstop. Mario would  miss the opportunity to play on the 1979 World Series team, since the Pirates traded him to Seattle after the 1978 season. He would come to the Mariners with Odell Jones, and Rafael Vasquez in exchange for Enrique Romo, Rick Jones, and Tommy McMillan.

Mario would become the everyday starting shortstop for the Mariners, making a great double play combo  with second baseman Julio Cruz. While his average would only be .198 in 1979, he would have a career year at .245 in 1980. During his down year in 1979, it is believed the origins the "Mendoza Line," would come to be. It is believed that teammate Tom Paciorek coined the phrase, because in the Sunday papers of old, they would list hitters and pitchers stats. The hitters would be listed from highest average to lowest. Mario's name was usually the last name on the list every Sunday. The phrase would gain popularity in 1980, when George Brett was chasing a .400 season and in an interview with Chris Berman of ESPN, he said every Sunday he checks the paper to see who is above the Mendoza Line.

After the 1980 season, Mario would become part of a massive 11 player deal. Mario would be trade to the Texas Rangers along with Willie Horton, Leon Roberts, Larry Cox, and Rick Honeycutt in exchange for Steve Finch, Brian Allard, Jerry Don Gleaton, Ken Clay, Rick Auerbach, and Richie Zisk. He would play the strike shortened 1981 season with the Rangers. While being used hardly at all in 1982, the Rangers would release Mario on June 7th of 1982. He would spend the rest of the 1982 season with the Mexico City Red Devils of the Mexican League. In 1983, he would receive an invite from the Pirates to spring training. While failing to make the team, he would continue on to be a player/coach with the AAA Hawaii Islanders for the 1983 season. 1984 would see Mario go back home to Mexico to be a player/manager with the Monclova Steelers. In 1985, he would play for the Rieleros de Aguascalientes. While Mario would miss the explosive 1986 season, he would return to play for Monclova in 1987 and hit .318! Mario would move on to the Charros de Jalisco in 1988. His final two years as a player would come in 1989 and 1990 with the Sultanes de Monterrey.

After taking a year off in 1991, Mario would return to baseball.With the advise of Bill Bavasi, the California Angels would hire Mario to manage the class A Palm Springs Angels. They would make the playoffs in his first year, but slipped far below .500 in his second year of 1993. The Angels would move Mario to AA in 1994, having him become the manager of the Midland Angels of the Texas League. In 1995, Mario would take the Angels to the league finals. After a very poor showing by Midland in 1996, Mario was moved back down. In 1997, he would manage the Cedar Rapids Kernels of the Midwest League. From 1998 to 2000, Mario became the manager of the Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League. During the 2000 season, Mario managed his son Mario Jr. Mario would also be inducted into the Mexican Hall of Fame in 2000, he would have the nickname of "manos de seda," or "hands of silk." He would take the 2001 season off, and return to manage the Shreveport Swamp Dragons in the San Fransisco Giants organization.

Starting in 2003, Mario would become a manager in the Mexican Leagues. He would only last 29 games with the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos in 2003. He would move to manage the Tigres de Angelopolis in 2004. On May 9th of 2005, Mario would replace Julian Yan as manager of the Olmecas de Tabasco. He would stay on with the Olmecas in 2006. Mario would move again in 2007, to manage the Piratas de Campache. The next year, he would travel again to manage the Pericos de Puebla. In 2009, Mario was named to mange the Potros de Tijuana in the Golden Baseball League. Due to the H1N1 scare, the team suspended operations before being able to play in 2009. Mario was hired to manage the Acereros de Monclova in 2010. He was fired by the team in late April. After being fired by the Steelers, he was hired to be a scout in Mexico for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He also managed Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregón, Guasave, Mexicali in the Mexican Pacific League, which is a winter league in western Mexico.

1 comment:

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