|BAD, MAD ALBERT BELLE.|
|ALBERT'S SMILING. QUICK, TAKE THE PHOTO.|
DEFINING THE PLAYER
- An ornery cuss with a scowl that could scare a crocodile, Albert Belle abused pitchers almost as badly as fans and sports writers. He was a middle-of-the-order basher direct from C-Block who from 1993-'99 averaged 41 homers, 127 RBI, .993 OPS, .308 average. He also drilled a heckling fan in the stands with a baseball, tried to chase down five trick-or-treating hoodlums in his car and verbally bludgeoned NBC's Hannah Storm for being in the dugout too close to gametime before Game 3 of the '95 World Series. It was always wise to give Albert a wide berth, as second baseman Fernando Vina also found out a year later when Belle bowled him over while being tagged out between first and second.
- In Game 1 of the '95 AL Division Series against the Red Sox on Oct. 3, Belle, who became the only player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the regular season, homered in the 11th inning to tie the game at 4. Red Sox Manager Kevin Kennedy asked the umpire to check the bat for cork. Belle had been suspended the year before for using. The NBC cameras caught an agitated Belle in the dugout staring at the scene at home plate, flexing his right biceps and pointing at it with his left index finger while shouting, ''There's your fucking cork!'' Later, when the bat was sawed in half, no cork was found. The Indians swept the Red Sox in three games. On June 1, the Indians are having a bobblehead giveaway of Belle flexing his
- His '95 and '96 seasons were off the charts but give the edge to '95, when he should've won the AL MVP. Friendlier-to-humanity #165 Mo Vaughn (.300/39/126) edged him by eight points. In only 143 games, Belle (.317/50/126) was a one-man wrecking crew, leading the league in homers, slugging (.690), doubles (52), runs (121), total bases (377) and posted a 1.091 OPS. Because he was a poor left fielder, his WAR that season was only 6.9, the highest of his career.
FIVE FINAL FACTS
- When #96 Cal Ripken Jr. ended his consecutive-games played streak at 2,632 in '98, Belle became the new leader. That lasted until the next season, Belle's first with the Orioles. That's when he was benched by Manager Ray Miller on June 11 for not running out a grounder in the previous game, stopping the streak at 392.
- Throughout his career and in retirement, Belle has donated money to scholarship funds and youth baseball clinics.
- The son of school teachers, he was an Eagle Scout growing up in Shreveport, La. Really, he was.
- Began his career known by the nickname "Joey,'' but after undergoing counseling for a drinking problem and missing most of the '90 season, he returned to the field insisting on being called by his given name. Later in his career, he earned another nickname, "Mr. Freeze,'' after a teammate tried to raise the clubhouse thermostat above Belle's preferred below-60 setting. Belle recalibrated the thermostat with a bat.
- By my count, he was suspended six times for a total of 26 major-league games before his career ended in '00 because of a degenerative right hip.