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Belle with the White Sox in 1997
August 25, 1966 |
|July 15, 1989 for the Cleveland Indians|
Last MLB appearance
|October 1, 2000 for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||1,239|
Career highlights and awards
Albert Jojuan "Joey" Belle (born August 25, 1966) is a former American Major League Baseball outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and weighing 225 pounds (102 kg), Belle was one of the leading sluggers of his time, and in 1995 became the first player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a single season. He was also the first player to break the 10-million-dollar per year compensation contract in Major League Baseball.
Belle was also considered a model of consistency, compiling a .295 career batting average, and averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBIs a season between 1991 and 2000. Belle is also one of only six players in MLB history to have nine consecutive 100-RBI seasons. However, his combative personality, marked by occasional angry outbursts, created a reputation that was intimidating to those who covered him in the news media.
Albert and his fraternal twin, Terry, were born on August 25, 1966, in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of Albert Belle Sr., a high school baseball and football coach, and Carrie Belle, a former math teacher. A former Boy Scout, he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. Belle attended Huntington High School in Shreveport, where he was a star baseball and football player, a member of the National Honor Society and vice president of the local Future Business Leaders of America. He also played little league baseball with future PGA Tour player David Toms. He graduated sixth in his high school class and made the all-state baseball team twice. In 1984, he was selected to play for the USA in the Junior Olympics, in which the U.S. won a silver medal. He played outfield and pitched, winning one game. After graduation, Belle was offered many football and baseball scholarships, including one to the University of Notre Dame; he was also offered an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. However, Belle decided to stay close to home, and accepted a baseball scholarship to Louisiana State University.
Belle played college baseball at Louisiana State University from 1985 to 1987, where he made 1st team All-SEC in 1986 and 1987 and played in 184 games, with 585 at bats, 194 hits, 30 doubles, 49 home runs, 172 runs batted in, 157 runs, a .670 slugging percentage, and a .332 batting average.
After college, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. While in the minor league system he was known as "Joey" (his childhood nickname) and was thought of as a top prospect, but high-risk due to his temper and excessive drinking. Belle underwent counseling and became known as "Albert."
Major League career
Belle was an intimidating presence at the plate; and well known for wearing an intense glare. He became the fourth player to have eight straight seasons of 30 home runs and 100 RBI, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig (a feat since matched by Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez). As a fielder he had a powerful throwing arm, unsurprising given that he was a gifted pitcher in high school. His range factor by games played was consistently higher than the major league average range factor at that position. He was an accomplished baserunner and base stealer, with a career high of 23 steals in 1993, and a surprising 17 steals in 1999 despite hip problems. He led the league three times in RBIs, three times in total bases, three times in extra-base hits and twice in slugging. He was a five-time All-Star between 1993 and 1997.
Notably, Albert Belle's career highs in home runs, RBI, batting average, runs scored and walks occurred in five separate seasons.
In 2006, the Hardball Times published a statistical comparison of Belle's career statistics with that of 60 of his current and former peers. The article ranked him in career "prime value," behind current Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner and recent inductee Frank Thomas.
In 1994, he lost the batting title to New York Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill, .359 to .357. His postseason record was limited to two heavy-hitting appearances, in which only his batting average suffered: he hit .230/.405/.557 (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, respectively) with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 61 at-bats.
In 1995, he became the first player in major league history to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season; the last player before him to reach as many as 40 in both categories had been Willie Stargell in 1973. The achievement was especially impressive because Belle played only 143 games in 1995 due to a season shortened by the previous year's player strike. The 40–40 mark has been surpassed since, most recently by Chris Davis in 2013, but Belle's 50–50 combo remains unique.
His reputation, and more specifically his disdain of the media, cost him votes for the 1995 MVP Award The fact that he was caught cheating the year before, in the infamous 1994 Bat Burglary, didn't help his cause either. He finished second in the media voting to the Boston Red Sox' Mo Vaughn even though he led the American League that season in runs scored, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases, and outpaced Vaughn head-to-head in every important offensive category except RBI (both men had 126); both players' teams reached the playoffs. This was in the middle of a three-year streak in which Belle finished 3rd, 2nd and 3rd for the American League MVP. Belle had two other top ten MVP finishes, in 1993 (7th) and 1998 (8th).
In the winter of 1996, he signed a 5-year, $55 million ($80,801,202 today) deal with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent. This contract made him the highest paid player in baseball for a brief period. He enjoyed two great seasons in Chicago, including a career-high 27-game hitting streak in May 1997, and came close to another 50/50 season in 1998 with 49 home runs (a White Sox team record that still stands) and 48 doubles. He also drove in 152 runs to break Zeke Bonura's single-season franchise record of 138 in 1936 (to date, the RBI total also remains a White Sox single-season record). Additionally, when Cal Ripken, Jr. ended his record consecutive game streak at 2,632 in September 1998 on the last day of the season, it was Belle who took over as the major leagues' active leader in the category.
His White Sox contract had an unusual clause allowing him to demand that he would remain one of the three highest paid players in baseball. In October 1998 he invoked the clause, and when the White Sox declined to give him a raise he immediately became a free agent. He again became the game's highest paid player, signing a five-year, $65 million ($92,020,575 today) deal with the Baltimore Orioles. But his career ended just two seasons later when he was forced into retirement at age 34 by degenerative hip osteoarthritis. He was, however, kept on Baltimore's active 40-man roster for the next three years as a condition of the insurance policy which largely reimbursed the Orioles for the remainder of his contract.
Belle was involved in several controversial incidents during his baseball career. In 1986, he went after a heckler in the stands who was shouting racist insults at him and was suspended from the College World Series. In 1991 he threw a baseball into the stands, where it struck a fan who had taunted him by yelling, "Keg party at my house, Joey," a reference both to Belle's prior nickname and alcohol problem rehabilitation. He was suspended in 1994 for using a corked bat, and gained further notoriety for sending teammate Jason Grimsley through the building's ceiling panel to break into the locked umpires' dressing room to retrieve his corked bat and substitute it with another teammate's bat, resulting in a seven-game suspension. The revelation of Belle's use of corked bats was given more emphasis when Cleveland teammate Omar Vizquel wrote in his autobiography that it would be naive to suggest otherwise and that "...all of Albert's bats were corked." He was fined in 1996 for knocking down Brewers infielder Fernando Viña, who had blocked his way between bases. He also had unpleasant interactions with the public, once chasing down rowdy trick-or-treating vandals who were celebrating Halloween by throwing eggs at his home, hitting one of the vandals with his car.
Sports reporters resented Belle's refusal to grant interviews before a game. A profane outburst directed at a group of reporters in his team's dugout, including NBC Sports personality Hannah Storm, was widely reported during the 1995 World Series. He was unrepentant afterward: "The Indians wanted me to issue a statement of regret when the fine was announced, but I told them to take it out. I apologize for nothing."
Eventually, Belle routinely refused to speak with the media. "I don't get excited talking about myself", he explained. "Guys such as Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio and Steve Carlton did not interview, and it was no big deal. They were quiet. I am also quiet. I just want to concentrate on baseball. Why does everyone want to hear me talk, anyway?" Belle rarely even conducted interviews regarding his various charitable donations and scholarships that might have burnished his sour image.
- It was a taken in baseball circles that Albert Belle was nuts... The Indians billed him $10,000 a year for the damage he caused in clubhouses on the road and at home, and tolerated his behavior only because he was an awesome slugger... He slurped coffee constantly and seemed to be on a perpetual caffeinated frenzy. Few escaped his wrath: on some days he would destroy the postgame buffet...launching plates into the shower... after one poor at-bat against Boston, he retreated to the visitors' clubhouse and took a bat to teammate Kenny Lofton's boombox. Belle preferred to have the clubhouse cold, below 60 degrees, and when one chilly teammate turned up the heat, Belle walked over, turned down the thermostat and smashed it with his bat. His nickname, thereafter, was "Mr. Freeze."
- "Sorry, there'll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle. He was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he's a hurt surly jerk....He was no credit to the game. Belle's boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers' Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame."
Responding to this, New York Times sportswriter Robert Lipsyte observed:
- "Madden is basically saying, 'He was not nice to me, so let's screw him.' Sportswriters anoint heroes in basically the same way you have crushes in junior high school... you've got someone like Albert Belle, who is somehow basically ungrateful for this enormous opportunity to play this game. If he's going to appear to us as a surly [expletive deleted], then we'll cover him that way. And then, of course, he's not gonna talk to us anymore—it's self-fulfilling."
In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility (2006), he garnered only 7.7% of the baseball writers' votes, missing election by an extremely wide margin. But his vote total was high enough to keep his name on the ballot for the following year. In 2007, however, he garnered only 19 votes (3.5%).
In retirement, Belle had his first encounter with the Cleveland Indians since leaving the club in 1996, during their 2012 spring training in Goodyear, Arizona and was joined by former teammates Kenny Lofton, Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Carlos Baerga.
Awards and accomplishments
- 1st team All-SEC (1986, 1987)
- South 1 Regional Tournament MVP (1986)
- 2nd team All-America (1986)
- 3rd team All-America (1987)
Major League Baseball (Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles):
- AL home run leader (1995)
- AL RBI leader (1993, 1995-tied with Mo Vaughn, 1996)
- AL doubles leader (1995-tied with Edgar Martínez)
- AL runs leader (1995-tied with Edgar Martínez)
- AL slugging percentage leader (1995, 1998)
- AL outfield assist leader (RF) (1999-tie)
- Named to Silver Slugger team (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998)
- All-Star (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997)
- First player to ever hit 50 HR and 50 Doubles (1995)
- The Sporting News Player of the Year (1995)
- Baseball Digest Player of the Year (1995)
- Led major leagues in the 1990s with 1,099 RBI
- Led major leagues in extra base hits in the 1990s with 711
- 4th player ever to have 8 straight seasons with 30 HR and 100 RBI
- Inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (June 2005)
- AL leader in runs created (1998)
- AL leader in OPS+ (1998)
- AL leader in total bases (1995, 1996, 1998)
- List of top 300 Major League Baseball home run hitters
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBIs
- 50 home run club
- List of Major League Baseball doubles records
- List of Major League Baseball RBI champions
- List of Major League Baseball home run champions
- List of Major League Baseball runs scored champions
- List of Major League Baseball doubles champions
- "Albert Belle Statistics". Archived from the original on 8 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
- Rice, Belle and Dawson in Context - The Hardball Times
- "Albert Belle Quotes". CNNSI. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Hoynes, Paul (28 February 2012). "Albert Belle enjoys a laugh-filled reunion with the Cleveland Indians". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- "Albert Belle Quotes". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 6 August 2013.
- Enders, Eric (April 23, 2001). "In Defense of Albert Belle". Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- Olney, Buster, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" (Harper Collins, 2004) p. 133-134
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
|Awards and achievements|
Rafael Palmeiro & Iván Rodríguez
|American League Player of the Month
August & September 1995