Albert Belle was widely reviled when he played. He committed all manner of bad acts on and off the field and he really, really pissed off reporters. When he retired, Bill Madden wrote this:
“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.”
It was in 2001, well before Twitter and most blogs, so not many took Madden to task for it, but I’m glad to have found it. Makes me think of Belle in a totally different light. I mean, if he got Madden so bent out of shape that he openly admitted in print that writers should punish him in the Hall of Fame voting for not being nice to them, he can’t be all bad. Indeed, he should be honored!
Albert Belle will flex his muscles for the Indians one more time.
The club is honoring Belle, once the most menacing hitter in baseball, with a bobblehead night promotion on June 1 against Tampa Bay. The bobblehead of Belle is of him flexing his right arm and pointing at his biceps – the pose he famously struck in the 1995 playoffs against Boston. In that series, Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy asked the umpires to check Belle’s bat, believing it was corked.
I love it. Baseball needs to embrace the bad boys more. Maybe not when they’re active — Belle really was a menace at times — but once they’re old and aren’t doing harm anymore, there’s no harm in looking back at guys like Belle while sharing a somewhat relieved and uneasy chuckle about what they were like. Instead, it’s leaning more in favor of whitewashing history. A shame really.
Anyway: next bobblehead I want to see is Jason Grimsley crashing through the ceiling of the umpire’s locker room, trying to retrieve Belle’s corked bat.