Today is many things. It is Boxing day. It is the day after Christmas. It’s probably someone’s anniversary and an important date in history for some culture somewhere. It is a date of note for former baseball player Mario Mendoza, for today is his birthday.
Whenever I think of Mario Mendoza, I think – and stay with me here – of douche. I don’t bring this up to be crass, or to make a value comparison of Mr. Mendoza as a person. I am being truthful. It’s just what comes to mind.
A while ago, let’s say 10 years ago, douche was just a thing. It was a thing some ladies wanted, and some companies sold. Demand, supply, markets, handshakes, business, etc. It was a product that, like any other product, was produced and consumed and no one said boo. Commercials for it might have produced a few snickers and awkward birds/bees conversations, but that was the extent of how much people cared about douche.
Then, all of the sudden, society (or at least American society) decided that douche (and douche bags) meant a totally different thing. We decided that it was a terrible thing, and therefore anything we deemed unseemly or undesirable should be called “douchy.” We used the term to describe all kinds of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. If someone ended a relationship over text message, they were a douche. If a lawmaker put forth an ideal we did not agree with, they were a douche bag. If a guy at the mall just had a certain look about him, he was a douche. And we all just kind of accepted it and moved on. This is just how things are now. The word “douche,” fairly innocuous until recently, has morphed into an entirely new brand of verbal degradation. For whatever reason, I always kind of felt bad for makers of douche. They were just doing their best to make a buck by churning out a product that people wanted. And then, the thing they made suddenly became abhorrent. And why? Just because they made something that had to do with a person’s private parts? Why don’t we use condoms or underpants or toilet paper as descriptors for unfavorable people? Douche was picked from the ether, it seems.
This is where Mario Mendoza comes in. For a long time, Mario Mendoza was a person. Then, he became a baseball player. Then, somehow, his name became synonymous with poor hitting performances. His light-hitting escapades became legend, enshrined by the term “Mendoza Line,” a fictitious and invisible line that supposedly marks the barrier between poor hitters and very poor hitters. But Mario Mendoza wasn’t the worst hitter in the history of baseball. That acclaim probably goes to Bill Bergen, whose hitting performances are certainly known in the baseball community. There are other hitters who performed worse than Mendoza (at least in terms of batting average) in as many plate appearances; Dave Duncan is one, current player Jeff Mathis is another. But we don’t call it the Bergen Line or the Mathis Line. For whatever reason, we name this bad thing, this thing for which we have disdain, after Mario Mendoza. Sure, he was a poor hitter, but not the poorest. Yet, like douche, he was plucked as the representation of something we don’t like.
In summation; Happy Birthday, Mario Mendoza. You are the douche of baseball, a term unfair to both parties involved. You were a kind of crappy hitter, but you deserved better than this.