Former Major League Baseball player Albert Belle was known for many things.
He was a great hitter, averaging 120 RBIs and over 30 home runs each year.
He was a solid outfielder with a .976 career fielding percentage.
Belle scored a lot of runs, 974 in his career.
Unfortunately, Belle was also known for his surly behavior which included baseballs purposefully thrown at fans, spicy language, and a strong dislike for the media.
Straight up Albert Belle should be inducted into the MLB HOF. Guy was a jerk and HATED the media (aka voters) but was the most feared slugger of his time. .295 career batting average, and averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBIs a season between 1991 and 2000. Don’t Google 2018 DUI 😂 pic.twitter.com/7kgrMxUp4L
— Scott Mayberry (@scottmayberry) July 29, 2018
As talented as he was, Belle could not shake his anger or drive for perfection.
He took out his frustrations on anyone or anything that got in his way, be they inanimate objects, teammates, or reporters looking for an interview.
Belle ended his career as one of the best sluggers in MLB history.
However, he’s had a hard time getting into Cooperstown because of his petulant behavior.
This is the story of Albert Belle.
Albert Jojuan Belle was born on August 25, 1966, in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Happy 56th birthday to Cleveland legend Albert Belle! pic.twitter.com/gZNO09c4FX
— #BELIEVELAND (@OurCLEGuardians) August 25, 2022
Contrary to his behavior later in life, Belle was, by all accounts, raised in a well-adjusted environment.
Both his parents were educators, and Belle and his twin brother, Terry, excelled through their formative years.
“I was blessed to grow up with parents who possessed different strengths and skills,” Belle wrote in an op-ed piece for the Baltimore Sun. “Mom was and still is the ‘glue’ of the family, but Dad (also named Albert) was the enforcer and ‘silent pillar of strength.’ Mom encouraged academics and culture, and Dad always promoted athletics. Both gave me and my brother all they had.”
Due to the influence of his parents, young Albert excelled in both academics and athletics.
He was an Eagle Scout and did local community service projects.
On the baseball field, Belle received personal tutoring from his father, who also coached football and baseball.
“Dad would usually arrive home after a long practice with his high school team,” Belle wrote. “After talking to Mom for a few minutes, he would poke his head in our room. That was our signal. My brother and I would immediately bounce up and jog out of the house up to the local junior high school, with Dad driving behind us. Dad would throw us hundreds of balls all night long.”
When he was in Little League ball one year, Belle was undefeated as a pitcher and also hit 21 home runs during a 16-game season.
Excelling in High School
It was more of the same for Belle when he arrived at Huntington High School in Shreveport.
In the classroom, Belle was a National Honor Society member and participated in a Future Business Leaders of America program.
Baseball continued to come easy for Belle, and he was named all-state twice.
Additionally, Belle accepted an invitation to play in the Junior Olympics for Team USA in 1984.
During the showcase, he won a game as a pitcher and also played in the outfield as the U.S. team won a silver medal.
Near the close of his high school career, Belle was ranked sixth in his class academically and was a good baseball player.
However, MLB teams were not exactly beating down his door with offers.
Albert Belle pic.twitter.com/Qmtolyxeis
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) July 14, 2022
So, he accepted a scholarship invitation to play for nearby LSU.
Belle arrived in Baton Rouge and began learning the ropes from Tigers coach Skip Bertman.
Bertman was relatively new to LSU at the time, but he would eventually lead the program to five national championships.
While at LSU, Belle went by “Joey” Belle instead of Albert.
He became a starter for the Tigers in 1985 and immediately made a name for himself.
After making it to the Central Regional, where the team was fourth in the conference in ‘85, LSU made it to the College World Series in 1986.
34 Years Ago On This Date 🗓️May 25, 1986:
The Tigers defeat Tulane, 7-6, in the NCAA South I Regional championship game in Alex Box Stadium, propelling LSU to its first-ever College World Series berth. Tournament MVP Albert Belle launches two HRs in the regional title game. ⚾️🐯 pic.twitter.com/zFMOc0qwcJ
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) May 25, 2020
Belle was named second-team All-American and All-SEC. He was also named to the ‘86 All-SEC Tournament Team.
When the season concluded, Belle went to Cape Cod to play summer ball for the Chatham A’s.
He performed well in the Cape Cod League but returned to Baton Rouge a different person.
Now that he was a rising college baseball star, Belle’s personality seemed to change for the worse.
When an at-bat didn’t go his way, Belle would throw his bat and other equipment.
“There was all this pressure, and you could see it get to him,” LSU teammate Pete Bush said. “It got to the point where he’d strike out, and guys in the dugout would be looking at each other and saying, ‘I wonder what’s he going to hit this time, or what he’s going to throw.’ “
Belle was prone to throwing temper tantrums, and Bertman benched his star a number of times.
Despite Belle’s behavior, Bertman still liked having him on the team
“He could hit with a matchstick,” Bertman recalled. “He was a hard worker. When he’d throw his helmet, I’d bench him, but he was a super-nice kid.”
During the 1987 season, Belle led the NCAA in home runs with 21, tied an LSU program record with five hits in one game, and was a first-team All-American.
— SEC Baseball (@SECbaseball) December 5, 2019
Yet, Belle also went after a fan who yelled a racial slur during the SEC Tournament and had to be restrained by teammates.
Because of the incident, Belle was suspended from the College World Series.
Belle Drops to the Second Round
There was no denying Belle had the gift to play baseball.
While at LSU, he set team records in homers (49), total bases (392), RBIs (172), hits (194), runs (157), at-bats (585), and tied for third with 11 career triples.
Unfortunately, there was also no denying that Belle was a headache.
His outburst during the SEC Tournament caused a number of teams to lose interest.
Members of the Atlanta Braves were very direct in threatening to fire personnel if the franchise drafted Belle.
With so much bad press, Belle dropped from a sure first-round pick.
June 2, 1987: 1st piece of puzzle⚾️#FortheLand draft (Albert) Belle from LSU in 2nd Rnd MLB Draft. Others followed, but Belle 1st to fall in place for epic (historic) mid-'90s lineup & team. Lasted to 2nd Rnd in part bc of suspensions for temper/outbursts #EraOfChampions 💪👈 pic.twitter.com/bCTJEdaLuF
— On This Day: Cleveland Sports (@CityfanC) June 2, 2022
The Cleveland Indians couldn’t get past Belle’s talent, however, and selected him in the second round of the 1987 MLB Draft.
Anger Issues Begin to Dwarf Belle’s Talent
It wasn’t long before Belle’s new employers saw his Jekyll and Hyde personality.
After signing his contract, he was in the Cape Cod league before being sent home due to frequent negative interactions with opposing players, fans, and umpires.
The Indians sent Belle to their Kinston team in the Carolina League where he did better, belting three home runs and hitting .324 in 10 games.
Then, in early 1988, Belle was playing for a Mexican League team when he threw a catcher’s mask out of a stadium and was promptly released and kicked out of the country.
All of his antics didn’t keep Cleveland from promoting Belle to the parent club in July of the 1989 season.
Now in the majors, Belle showed he was worth the trouble and hit .225 with seven home runs (including a grand slam against the Yankees), 49 hits, and 37 RBIs.
RBIs win games; and they can make you a ton of money. -Albert Belle pic.twitter.com/x9xuvHFWUA
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) May 13, 2020
Remarkably, his first career hit was against Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.
When the 1990 season began, Belle slumped terribly, and the Indians sent him to the minors.
“I was sure I’d be a superstar by the time I was 21,” Belle told Sports Illustrated. “Baseball messed up my plan of life. When I fail, I get upset. Sometimes I get upset too quickly, without thinking of the consequences.”
While with Cleveland’s Colorado Springs affiliate, Belle became upset about his play and proceeded to destroy a sink in the team’s clubhouse.
Belle then shocked his teammates and even his family when he checked himself into an addiction treatment center for alcohol, thus ending his season.
“Some people like to sip a drink and enjoy it,” Belle told Sport. “But I got to the point where I didn’t feel like waiting around. I wanted to relax. I wanted to get drunk. As fast as possible.”
More of the Same
When Belle returned from rehab, he had ditched “Joey” and was to be addressed by his given name “Albert.”
He looked like a new man without the temptation of alcohol and raised his batting average to .282.
Belle also raised his RBIs to 95, homers to 28, and hits to 130.
Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, and Carlos Baerga pic.twitter.com/ETx3e4Ym4o
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) July 23, 2022
Regrettably, while Belle may have kicked alcohol, he was still angry.
Teammates, coaches, and front office members commented that Belle was fun to be around most of the time.
However, he also obtained the nickname “snapper” for a reason.
“Albert’s snapped at me,” Cleveland first base coach Dave Nelson said. “He’s gone off at other coaches. You never know which Albert’s going to show up.”
During a May baseball game, a fan heckled Belle, and he took a baseball and plunked the fan in the chest, earning a six-game suspension from MLB.
“I know what alcoholism does to people,” said Belle to Sport magazine. “But I still let some guy who had been drinking and who had been loud and obnoxious the whole game get to me. I stooped to his level. That’s what I regret.”
Late in the season, Belle was sent back to Colorado Springs due to a lack of hustle but was called back to Cleveland only two weeks later.
Belle Brings the Thunder
1992 was the beginning of great things for Belle, at least on the diamond.
That year, the Indians improved in the win column by nearly 20 games from the year before.
Part of the reason was Belle, who launched 34 home runs, hit 112 RBIs, had 81 runs, and also had 152 hits for a .260 average.
Albert Belle brought fear when he stepped into that batters box pic.twitter.com/MTtpEAZM18
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) October 8, 2022
He was still cranky though, charging the mound at opposing pitchers in both 1992 and 1993, which drew suspensions.
In 1993, Belle earned his first All-Star appearance and his first Silver Slugger Award after batting .290 with 38 homers, an MLB-best 129 RBIs, 172 hits, and 93 runs.
Belle’s arm from the outfield was stellar as well, and he routinely rocketed a throw to the infield to nail an opposing runner.
A Corked Bat
The 1994 season saw a player strike, and the MLB postseason was canceled.
By the time of the work stoppage, Belle was hitting a career-best .357, with 101 RBIs, 36 home runs, 147 hits, and 90 runs.
He was also sent home for six games when an opposing manager asked an umpire to check Belle’s bat during a game.
While the bat was stored in the umpire’s room awaiting inspection, Indians teammate Jason Grimsley went to great lengths to try to sneak in a different bat.
Working his way through the ceiling above the room, Grimsley opened a panel and dropped to the floor below.
“My heart was going 1,000 miles an hour,” Grimsley said. “And in (to) the umpire’s dressing room I went. I just rolled the dice. A crap shoot.”
Even though Grimsley made an exchange with the new bat, the heist was found out, and Belle’s bats were tested.
28 years ago today Albert Belle’s corked bat was confiscated by umpires.
So began the greatest MLB heist in history- Jason Grimsley climbed through the ceiling of the Tribe clubhouse into the umpires room stole the corked bat & replaced it with Paul Sorrento’s name-stamped bat🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/EbeGJlCzsG
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) July 15, 2022
As expected, it turned out the offending bat was corked, which led to Belle’s suspension.
It didn’t seem to matter to Belle’s peers as he was selected as an All-Star again and also received his second Silver Slugger Award.
Belle’s behavior also didn’t bother Cleveland’s fans because they knew what he brought to the team.
“In Cleveland, where they have known failure for 38 straight seasons, a man who hates it and fights so hard against it, as Belle does, can become a fan favorite…. Cleveland fans tolerated Belle’s bursts,” wrote Sport magazine. “In fact, he became almost a cult figure. The fans knew … he was the only one who could also bring the boom times.”
Cleveland Reaches the World Series
It’s safe to say that the 1995 Cleveland Indians came out of nowhere.
One year after finishing with 66 wins, the team erupted for a 100-44 record.
Belle was steady again, earning a third Silver Slugger Award and All-Star appearance with a .317 batting average, AL-best 126 RBIs, career and AL-best 50 home runs, 173 hits, and an AL-best 121 runs.
1995 Cleveland Indians All-Stars
Manny Ramirez, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Jose Mesa, and Dennis Martinez pic.twitter.com/mouWhP29LG
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) August 22, 2022
Meanwhile, Cleveland made the postseason for the first time since 1954 and defeated the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners in the first two rounds.
The Indians faced the Atlanta Braves in the ‘95 World Series and found themselves in a 0-2 hole after the first two games.
Before Game 3, Belle felt the pressure of the moment.
Seeing an assembly of reporters near the Indians’ dugout, Belle screamed at the group to leave the area.
“He looks at a game as a battle,” said Indians clubhouse attendant and Belle confidant Frank Mancini. “It’s war. Anybody who’s not on his team is against him. That’s the enemy.”
Most of the media members vacated the area except for NBC’s Hannah Storm who was waiting to interview a member of the Indians.
When Belle saw that Storm had stayed put, he unleashed an even angrier tirade that shook the reporter to her core.
The action led to an unprecedented $50,000 fine from MLB.
“I didn’t even know it was Hannah Storm,” Belle attempted to explain later. “I thought it was Lesley Visser. I wish it was Lesley Visser because I don’t like her anyway.”
Belle Denied MVP Award
Cleveland would end up losing the World Series 4-2 although Belle hit home runs in Games 4 and 5.
A consolation prize for Belle would have been the MLB MVP award.
Media hatred of Albert Belle was so deep, it even surpassed Barry Bonds. He was robbed of easy MVP (only 50 HR/50 double season in MLB history), & this was his only Sports Illustrated cover. He has been denied Hall of Fame. No he is not a nice guy – like tons of other HOFers pic.twitter.com/QOl6rIJKx3
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) March 26, 2018
However, the media (who voted for the award) were not particularly fond of Belle and instead gave the award to Boston’s Mo Vaughn.
“People are looking at the whole thing,” Vaughn said, “and that it’s not just numbers.”
“I’m kind of upset that they give baseball writers all this power when other media people who were former ballplayers should be involved in the voting, too,” remarked Belle. “Maybe it should be 50-50 with those guys and the writers. Or maybe not let the baseball writers vote at all.”
No Candy for You!
Weeks after the World Series, Belle’s home in Cleveland was bombarded by eggs.
The projectiles were thrown by local youths who were upset that Belle was not handing out candy for Halloween.
MLB FLASHBACK: Albert Belle's Ohio house was once egged after turning away Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Angry, Belle immediately jumped into his car and chased the kids, which ultimately saw him sued (seeking $850K) for allegedly bumping one of them. The lawsuit was settled. pic.twitter.com/f6NhyrQ7sS
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) December 10, 2020
Enraged over the incident, Belle called the police.
“You better get somebody over here, because if I find one of them, I’ll kill them.”
He then hopped into his car and chased the teens off his property.
Belle was fined $100 and found guilty of reckless motor vehicle operation.
In 1996, the Indians returned to the postseason after winning 99 games but lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS.
Belle had a .311 batting average, AL-best 148 RBIs, 48 home runs, 187 hits, and 124 runs.
He then received a fourth Silver Slugger Award along with his fourth All-Star appearance and finished third in MVP voting.
Before an April game that season, Belle threw two baseballs at Sports Illustrated photographer Tony Tomsic, who was on assignment.
This Day in Baseball History: April 6, 1996 — Albert Belle shows off his arm by hitting Sports Illustrated photographer Tony Tomsic in the hand prior to a game between the Indians and Blue Jays at Jacobs Field. The angry Indians outfielder had told the p… https://t.co/qs9wI9xi26 pic.twitter.com/Z5SBycWXRy
— Triple Play Design (@emkittel) April 6, 2021
One of Belle’s throws connected with Tomsic, and the photographer was treated for his injuries.
That same season, Belle was fined for knocking down Fernando Vina of the Brewers who Belle claimed had blocked his way while running the base paths.
Belle Leaves For Chicago
After the ‘96 season, Cleveland was prepared to pay Belle handsomely.
The organization offered him a five-year $38 million contract that would have put him second on the MLB’s money list behind Ken Griffey Jr.
Belle turned down the offer and instead signed with the Chicago White Sox for five years and $55 million.
— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) June 27, 2020
With his departure from the Indians, Belle’s now former teammates were somewhat relieved that he was gone.
“It was always an adventure with Albert,” catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said.
“He was in his own little world. He’s a great player, but he didn’t contribute to team chemistry. And team chemistry is important,” said shortstop Omar Vizquel.
Home Runs and an Obscene Gesture
In his first season in Chicago, Belle batted .274 with 116 RBIs, 30 homers, 174 hits, and 90 runs and was voted an All-Star for the final time.
1997 Chicago White Sox
Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Robin Ventura, and Harold Baines pic.twitter.com/llSyV9h81S
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) April 23, 2022
During a game in Cleveland, some of the locals voiced their thoughts about their former slugger, and Belle gifted the fans with an obscene gesture.
He was fined by the MLB $5,000 for the act.
Not long after the incident in Cleveland, Belle was arrested for a domestic battery charge after an angry confrontation with his girlfriend.
The charge was later dropped.
There were other issues as well in Chicago.
“He was even a menace to Sox employees. He once cursed out a broadcaster for having the gall to enter the trainer’s room to get an aspirin. And he belittled hitting instructor Von Joshua by forbidding him from discussing his (Belle’s) swing with reporters,” said Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune.
During the 1998 season, Belle played in an MLB-leading, and career-best, 163 games while batting .328 with 152 RBIs (a team record), 49 home runs, 200 hits, and 113 runs.
— Jemmons (@otrjems) March 31, 2022
He also led the AL in five other categories including a .655 slugging percentage.
Belle was awarded his fifth, and final, Silver Slugger Award after the season.
Belle Becomes an Oriole
When Belle signed with Chicago, one of his contract stipulations was that he would continue to be paid as one of the top three players in MLB.
Not long after the ‘98 season, the White Sox balked at increasing his salary to meet the stipulation, and Belle immediately became a free agent.
He signed with the Baltimore Orioles for five years and $65 million.
During his first season in Baltimore, Belle batted a shade under .300 and added 117 RBIs, 37 home runs, 181 hits, and 108 runs.
Orioles slugger Albert Belle is the only player in MLB history to hit 4 doubles in a 9-inning game twice – and he did both in the same season (1999). Belle's first 2-bagger bonanza was on 8/29 in a romp over the Tigers. The repeat came on 9/23 in a rout of the A's. #Orioles #MLB pic.twitter.com/0eKvMB1s7B
— John Devlin (@lielo4950) March 10, 2022
That same year, Orioles manager Ray Miller benched Belle for lack of hustle.
That ended his streak of playing in 392 consecutive games, which led MLB at the time.
In 2000, Belle was plagued by an arthritic hip, and his numbers dropped to a .281 average, 103 RBIs, 23 homers, 157 hits, and 71 runs.
His final at-bat was a home run on October 1.
When the season concluded, Belle retired due to the worsening condition of his hip.
In his 12-year career, Belle had a .295 batting average, a .564 slugging percentage, 1,239 RBIs, 381 home runs, 1,726 hits, and 974 runs.
He was a five-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL RBI leader, and AL home run leader in 1995.
Not Much Has Changed
As a baseball player, Albert Belle was one of the best in the game during the 1990s.
He barely missed batting titles and MVP awards and ultimately became just one of four players in history to average 100+ RBIs and 30+ home runs for eight consecutive years.
Belle is also the only player in MLB history to hit 50+ homers and 50+ doubles in the same season.
The first (and still only) man to post 50+ Doubles and 50+ HR in the same season
Albert Belle pic.twitter.com/YzhpBYKVk5
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) August 30, 2022
After retiring, Belle spent time near baseball by retiring to the Phoenix area and attending Spring Training games.
He has worked with ESPN on the ESPN Cleveland’s Really Big Show program that discusses Cleveland Guardians baseball.
Belle is married and has three children. Despite that fact, the former slugger has had a difficult time staying away from trouble.
In 2006, Belle was arrested and spent time in jail along with 90 days probation for stalking an ex-girlfriend.
Then, in 2018, he was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and DUI in Scottsdale, Arizona.
BREAKING: Albert Belle arrested in Scottsdale during a spring training game.
2 counts of indecent exposure
1 count of DUI (using liquor, drugs or vapors)
1 count of Extreme DUI (BAC of .08 or more) pic.twitter.com/3zMgRczQi3
— Matt Rodewald (@Matt_Rodewald) March 26, 2018
Belle’s name appeared on the ballot for the Hall of Fame until 2007 when he received less than the 5% of ballots needed to remain eligible for the Hall.
“His numbers were good,” Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said. “I thought if he played one or two more years at a high level, I’d have to vote for him. But he didn’t. He was a bad guy. And what goes around comes around.”