Turn Back the Clock Tuesday: Albert Belle

Albert Belle was a feared man when playing baseball Photo: Albert Belle in 2012/AP

LOS ANGELES, June 11, 2013 — Turn Back the Clock Tuesday takes a trip into the world of Albert Belle, a player that was as talented as he was troubled.

Albert Belle was the second round draft pick in 1987 of the Cleveland Indians after attending LSU. In high school, Belle graduated sixth in his class.


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In 1991, Albert Belle was in his first full season with the Indians. A fan was heckling Belle about coming to a keg party later. Belle, who completed an alcohol rehabilitation program the summer before, threw a foul ball at the fan from about 15 feet away. The ball hit the fan in the chest and Belle issued an apology via the team.

Albert Belle was perhaps one of the most underappreciated sluggers of our generation. He hit at least 30 homeruns in eight consecutive seasons, a feat shared only at the time by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. In the third year of that streak, something funny happened.

During a game in July of 1994, the White Sox were tipped off that Belle may be using a corked bat. The bat was confiscated from the Indians slugger and stored in a locker in the umpire’s room. While the game was in play, Cleveland reliever Jason Grimsley crawled on top of the ceiling and heating ducts to get into the umpire’s room. Grimsley had to replace Belle’s bat with a bat that belonged to Albert Belle’s teammate, Paul Sorrento. According to a New York Times article from 1999, Jason Grimsley said he had to use a different player’s bat because all of Belle’s bats were corked.

Albert Belle received a ten game suspension, which was appealed and replaced with a seven game suspension.


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In 1995, Albert Belle finished second in MVP voting while becoming the first and only player to ever hit 50 doubles and 50 homeruns in a season. Belle finished in the top three in MVP voting each year from 1994 through 1996, but never actually won the award.

Belle after running into Vina/AP

In 1996, Belle was fined for running into Fernando Viña. However, saying “running into” really does not do the incident any sort of justice.

Belle was on first base when a ground ball was hit to Brewers second baseman, Fernando Viña. Instead of running out of the way, as is the rule, Belle lowered his shoulder and hit Viña, sending the second baseman flying back off his feet. The hit looked like the kind of hit you would see a linebacker put on a defenseless receiver coming across the middle. To his credit, Viña held on to the ball.


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In a 12 year career, Albert Belle hit 381 homeruns for three different teams, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He collected over 1700 hits on his way to a career .295 batting average. He was a member of the 1995 Cleveland Indians team that lost to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. On that team were Eddie Murray, Orel Hershiser, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Dennis Martinez, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Omar Vizquel among others.

After not having any candy for trick-or-treaters on Halloween in 1995, Belle’s house was egged. The slugger chased the kids down with his car. It was claimed by one of the kids that Belle struck him with his car.

Albert Belle certainly put up the numbers for serious Hall of Fame consideration, but admission to the HoF is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association. Belle was no darling to the media. One of many incidents involving the press and Belle was directed at Hannah Storm.

NBC’s Storm was in the dugout before a game to interview Kenny Lofton during batting practice. Albert Belle was annoyed with all of the media in the dugout and attempted to kick everyone out. Hannah Storm did not go and received a verbal assault from Belle, which resulted in a $50,000 fine being dropped on Belle by MLB.

In Belle’s first vote for the Hall of Fame, he received just 7.7% of the needed 75% of the votes, which was enough to get him another shot. The following year, that 7.7% fell to 3.5% and Belle’s Hall of Fame hopes were as dead as his career.

Dr. Steven L. Adler of the Wells On Baseball think tank also contributed to this story.

Kevin J. Wells writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music.  Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

 


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Kevin J Wells

Kevin J. Wells was born and raised in the Los Angeles area in a town called Montrose.  He currently plays guitar for and is a founding member of the Los Angeles punk rock band Emmer Effer.  He has worked in a number of different career fields including Behavioral Therapy, Commodities, Insurance, and most recently a food cart in Portland, OR. Kevin has been both a sports and entertainment columnist and editor for The Washington Times Communities since January 2013.

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