Classic card of the week

Albert Belle, 1991 Upper Deck

Let’s get this out of the way now: Albert Belle was to pleasant as Roger Clemens is to honest. There is too much to even cover here -- the “Controversy” section of Belle’s Wikipedia page is longer than the Internet itself.

Albert Belle was such a legendary prick that his baseball career was dismissed before the revelations of the Steroid Era occurred, and when they did, it resulted in the instantaneous -- and undeniably true -- realization that, yeah, he did that, too. (I mean, he corked his bat. It’s pretty safe to assume that he corked himself as well.) Albert Belle made Ty Cobb look like Yogi Berra. In fact, even the most despised professional athletes can elicit sympathy; John Rocker’s reputation (as an a-hole, not as an idiot) has softened with time, just wait until it’s time for Michael Vick to return to the NFL, and “60 Minutes” gave even Bill Romanowski a forum. It could feasibly be argued that O.J. freaking Simpson -- a guy who probably murdered two people -- is a more likable character than Belle, simply because Simpson has regressed into a punch line, while Belle remains an unprecedented sports villain.

But I’m not here to bash Albert Belle. In fact, I’m here to salute him. Why? Well, a) I am scared, and b) nobody has tried this before. I mean, who else in the universe has these accomplishments on their resume:

- Chased and ran down trick-or-treaters who egged his house, hitting one of them with his car
- Threw a baseball into the stands at a heckler, hitting him square in the chest
- Smashed Kenny Lofton’s boombox to pieces with a bat
- Had this to say in the aftermath of shouting a tirade of profane insults at a group of reporters who had the audacity to be in the Cleveland dugout during the World Series: “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.”
- Attached a GPS device to the car of a former escort he was stalking

Nobody, that’s who. Have YOU ever smashed Kenny Lofton’s boombox? I doubt it. But how many times have you wanted to smash Kenny Lofton’s boombox? If you’re like me, at least 20 times. (I always wondered what Lofton’s reaction to this was, and, using his present state of “breathing” as Exhibit A, I have concluded that he reacted by not saying a damn word.) That is, in essence, why I salute Albert Belle.

Don’t get me wrong -- I don’t condone anything he’s ever done. Almost all of it is pretty awful. But here is how I figure it: Along the journey of his extreme assholiness, Albert Belle, by pure default, surely pissed off some people that deserved to get pissed off. You think you’re funny egging Albert Belle’s house? Bam -- you’ve just been hit by a car. Think you’re hot stuff, with your parachute and gold chain, Kenny Lofton? Oops, looks like you need a new boombox. You want to hurl insults from the safety of the stands at a guy going through alcohol rehab? Here’s a fastball to the chest. Don’t want to return Albert Belle’s phone calls, former escort? Guess you forgot about satellites. And don’t even get me started on the array of surly, cranky sports reporters, who have the arrogance to believe a good relationship with them translates directly into a Hall of Fame vote, that Belle left in his wake. For that, I salute you, Albert Belle.

Of course, the problems occur when you consider the extremity of Belle’s particular brand of justice, and the fact that he often doled it out in unwarranted situations, with innocent bystanders being the victims. But that’s not important.

Also, the back of this card features the only known picture of Albert Belle smiling. Unfortunately, not pictured is the fact that he’s urinating on the Indians' mascot.

(Who is, by the way, pretty offensive. I'm just saying.)

Albert Belle, 1991 Upper Deck

Did you know?
I apologize for nothing.


Bill said…
I think you might be going too hard on Belle here Mike, just think of all the good he's done. For one thing, he must be a great teammate if Jason Grimsley - a saint himself - would climb through air conditioning ducts to retrieve one of Albert's corked bats. Surely Grimsley was not motivated by anything other than the intrinsic joy of helping a good friend. Also, many might think that Albert had malicious intent on May 30, 1996 when he gave Fernando Vina a forearm shot to the face. But what wasn't widely publicized, was when on May 29, 1996, I overheard Fernando Vina saying that he felt like his nose was out of alignment, and hoped someone could fix it for him. That's the kind of man Albert Belle is.

Keep up the great work!
CMB said…
Wow - look how small he is!