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Albert Jojuan Belle (born August 25, 1966) is a former Americanmarker Major League Baseball outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles. Standing at 6'2 and weighing in at 225 lbs, Albert was one of the leading sluggers of his time, and in 1995 he became the first player to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a single season.

Belle was also considered a model of consistency, compiling a .295 career batting average, averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBI a season over the ten main years of his major league career from 1991 to 2000. Belle is also one of only six players in major league history to have nine consecutive 100-RBI seasons. However, his combative personality combined with occasional angry outbursts created a reputation for surliness that often overshadowed his on-field hitting performance.

Early life

Albert Belle, and his fraternal twin, Terry, were born on August 25, 1966, in Shreveportmarker, Louisianamarker, 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. 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 USAmarker in the Junior Olympics, in which the U.S.marker 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 Damemarker; 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 Universitymarker.

College

Belle played college baseball at LSU from 1985–1987 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." Umpire Durwood Merrill, who wrote a book called You're Out, and You're Ugly, Too, tweaked Belle by calling him "Joey" long past the time when Belle was known by that name publicly.

Major League career

Belle 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 matched by Albert Pujols in 2008). Alex Rodriguez has 11 straight. As a fielder, Belle 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 base runner and base stealer, with a career high of 23 steals in 1993, and a surprising 17 steals in 1999 despite hip problems. Belle 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 Belle in career "prime value," behind current Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner and presumed future inductee Frank Thomas.

In 1994, Belle lost the batting title to the New York Yankees' outfielder Paul O'Neill, .359 to .357. Belle's post-season 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, Belle became the first player in the history of the major leagues to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season; before Belle, the last player to reach as many as 40 in both categories had been Willie Stargell in 1973. The achievement was especially impressive because Belle only played 143 games in 1995 due to a season shortened by the previous year's players strike. The 40-40 mark has been surpassed since, most recently by Alfonso Soriano in 2006, 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. Belle finished second in the media voting to the Boston Red Sox's Mo Vaughn. This result occurred despite Belle's having led the American League that season in runs scored, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases, and despite his outpacing 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 Albert 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, Belle signed a 5-year, $55 million ($ in current dollar terms) deal with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent. This contract made him the highest paid player in baseball for a brief period. Belle enjoyed two great seasons in Chicago, including a career-high 27-game hitting streak in May 1997. Belle came close to having another 50/50 season in 1998, with 49 home runs (a White Sox team record that still stands) and 48 doubles. Additionally, when Cal Ripken ended his record consecutive game streak in September 1998, it was Belle who took over as the major leagues' active leader in the category.

Belle's 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, Belle invoked the clause, and when the White Sox declined to give him a raise, Belle immediately became a free agent. Belle again became the game's highest paid player, signing a five-year, $65 million ($ in current dollar terms) deal with the Baltimore Orioles. However, Belle ended his career just two seasons later, retiring at age 34 as a result of degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip. However, he was 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 Belle's contract.

Albert Belle homered in the final at-bat of his major-league career on October 1, 2000.

Controversy

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; he was suspended while his team played in the College World Series. In 1990, 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 his stints in alcohol rehabilitation. He was suspended in 1994 for using a corked bat and received further disdain for sending teammate Jason Grimsley through the building's ceiling panel to break into the locked umpire dressing room to retrieve Belle's corked bat and substitute it with another teammate's bat. This resulted in a seven game suspension for Belle. He was fined in 1996 for knocking down Brewers infielder Fernando Viña, who had blocked his way on the basepaths. He also had unpleasant interactions with the public. He also chased down rowdy trick-or-treating vandals who were celebrating Halloween by throwing eggs at his home; Belle ended up 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. Later, Belle was unrepentant: "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.

But the media did not ignore Belle. ESPN's Buster Olney would write about Belle's outbursts while a Cleveland Indian:
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 visitor's 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."


In 2001, following Belle's retirement, the New York Daily News' columnist Bill Madden wrote:
"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, The 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 asshole, then we'll cover him that way. And then, of course, he's not gonna talk to us anymore—it's self-fulfilling."


When Belle did choose to communicate with fans, it was generally via unfiltered forums such as his website, or in columns for the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Press.

In Belle's 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 Belle's vote total was high enough to keep his name on the ballot for the following year. In 2007, however, Belle only garnered 19 votes (3.5%) and dropped off the ballot.

In February 2006, Belle was arrested on suspicion of stalking a woman who was identified in court as a former licensed escort. He was again arrested in charges related to the same case on May 17, 2006. On July 27, 2006, Belle plead guilty to one count of stalking and he was sentenced on August 24 to 90 days in jail and five years supervised probation. Belle had attached a GPS tracking device onto her car and obtained her phone records. Belle issued an apology to the woman stating, "I have made mistakes in my life, but I have admitted my mistakes and learned from them to be a better person."

Awards and accomplishments

College (LSU):
  • 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-tie 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)


See also



References

  1. Rice, Belle, and Dawson in Context - The Hardball Times
  2. Olney, Buster, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty" (Harper Collins, 2004) p. 133-134
  3. http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060110&content_id=1293389&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb
  4. http://www.azcentral.com/sports/diamondbacks/articles/0610albertbelle0610.html
  5. http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=65817
  6. http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/sports/articles/0825belle0825.html
  7. http://www.620ktar.com/?nid=6&sid=212339


External links




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