Although Mario Mendoza is synonymous with batting ineptitude– thus the infamous “Mendoza Line” used in reference to hitting less than .200– I prefer Lou Limmer.
First, the “Lou Limmer Line” is more mellifluous. But even better, Limmer ended his career with a .202 average, a full 13 points below Mendoza’s .215 (though Mendoza still sets the standard for anemic production with his OPS+ of 44, far below Limmer’s 75.) Limmer was also the more interesting player, by far.
Of Mendoza, little was expected. He played good glove, no bat for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers before calling it quits and returning to his native Mexico. But the highly-touted Limmer was an acute disappointment for the long suffering Philadelphia Athletics’ fans.
Here’s Limmer’s write up from the 1951 A’s yearbook:
Pride of the A’s farm system is Lollopin’ Lou Limmer who was voted the Rookie of the Year for American Association in 1950. Lou slammed 29 homers and drove in 111 runs to lead the Association in both categories. Lou hopes he’s here to stay.
But Limmer bombed; he hit .159 with only five home runs in 94 games. Not until 1954 did Philadelphia see Limmer again. That year, he performed slightly better, hitting .231 with 14 homers in 115 games.
As the 1954 A’s yearbook ominously wrote:
Lou has never quite lived up to expectations but he is hoping this will be his year of fulfillment.
That was it for Limmer. As the A’s prepared to move to Kansas City, Limmer would return to AAA Columbus where he hit 28 homers and knocked in 82. Limmer is one of dozens of players who tore up the minors but couldn’t cut it in the big leagues. In 11 minor league seasons, Limmer hit 244 homers and batted over .280 five times.
A’s fans certainly missed Limmer. Famous for his prodigious pre-game slugging performances, A’s fans labeled Limmer “the Babe Ruth of batting practice.”
Even though his career was short, Limmer came in and went out with a bang. In his first Yankee Stadium appearance on April 23, 1951, the Bronx native powered a ninth inning pinch hit home run against Yankee ace Vic Raschi. Then, in 1954 on September 25 and 26 in their last games before the team moved to Kansas City, Limmer got the A’s last hit, a single off the Yankees’ Bob Grim and the team’s last home run, a solo shot off Yankees’ relief pitcher Johnny Sain.
Limmer was also part of baseball’s only three-way, all Jewish confrontation. OnMay 2, 1951 with the A’s at Detroit, the Tigers’ battery was pitcher Saul Rogovin and catcher Joe Ginsberg. Limmer pinch hit in the top of the ninth (again!) and hit a two-run homer off Rogovin’s first pitch to tie the game at 3-3. The A’s however, being the A’s, lost the tenth, 5-4. Limmer recalls his home run here.
Although it’s easy to poke good natured fun at Limmer, the Philadelphia Athletics’ Historical Society points out that in the 1950s Limmer was competing for one of 400 major league jobs. Today, the number is 750 and the slick fielding first baseman with his occasional power would be a welcome addition to most clubs.
Limmer, an Army Air Corps veteran and a big favorite at A’s reunions, died in 2007 at age 82.