Thursday, October 2, 2003
Updated: September 5, 10:50 AM ET
Belle rings 50/50
By Bob Carter
Special to ESPN.com
Sept. 30, 1995 - Kansas City Royals rookie Melvin Bunch had been hitting the corners of the plate most of the game. In the sixth inning, he tried to get a fastball past Albert Belle, and the Indians slugger drove it 405 feet, into the left-field seats of Cleveland's Jacobs Field and into the record books.
With the home run, in the next-to-last game of the regular season, Belle
became the 12th major leaguer to hit 50 homers in a season and tied Babe Ruth for the most homers ever in the month of September at 17. Belle joined Ruth, Roger Maris, Willie Mays and other notables in the 50-club. "It is a pretty big honor to be considered in the same group of those guys," the 29-year-old Belle said after the Indians won 3-2 in 10 innings.
The home run was his 31st since August 1. He said he had no idea he'd reach 50. "To be able to hit 30," he said, "is tough enough."
Odds 'n' Ends
Belle was an Eagle Scout and honor-roll student in high school in Shreveport, La. He was considered well behaved.
At LSU, he was benched several times for failing to run out ground balls and for throwing equipment in anger. In June 1991, the Indians sent him to the minors after he didn't run hard on a double-play grounder.
Belle hit three home runs in a 12-9 Cleveland victory over Seattle on Sept.
6, 1992. He also hit three on Sept. 19, 1995 against the White Sox, tying a major
league record with five homers in consecutive games.
That September, he hit 13 homers in a 16-game stretch.
In the 1995 AL MVP voting, Belle received 11 first-place votes and 300
points to 12 and 308 for Boston's Mo Vaughn. He batted 17 points higher than
Vaughn (.317 to .300), had 11 more homers (50-39), scored 23 more runs
(121-98) and matched him in RBI with 126.
After hitting a Sports Illustrated photographer with a ball while warming
up in the outfield on April 6, 1996, AL president Gene Budig ordered Belle to
undergo counseling and perform community service. Belle's agent said the
player already was doing both.
Belle ignited a brawl between the Indians and Brewers on May 31, 1996 when
he ran into Fernando Vina in the eighth inning, smacking the second baseman
with his forearm. Belle and two others got five-game suspensions for brawling.
With little publicity, as an Indians player Belle did extensive charity work in Cleveland and Shreveport.
In February 1997, he admitted losing as much as $40,000 in bets on pro
football and college basketball. Later that year, Belle was interviewed by
federal investigators looking into illegal bookmaking and money laundering,
but was not a target of the investigation.
On June 3, 1997, Belle returned to Cleveland and led the White Sox to a 9-5
victory by hitting a three-run homer and two doubles. Late in the game, he
made an obscene gesture to fans, action that drew a $5,000 fine.
His 300th home run came on July 17, 1998 in Chicago and was his 10th in 10
games since the All-Star break. The homer helped the White Sox to a 4-3 win
over Cleveland. His 16th homer of the month on July 31 set a major league
He had five hits in a 17-16 Chicago win over Detroit that September.
Belle became the fourth player ever with eight consecutive seasons of 30
homers and 100 RBI (1992-99). The others to do it before him: Babe Ruth, Lou
Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.
His ninth straight season of 100-plus RBI came in 2000, his last year, and
tied former Chicago teammate Frank Thomas for the fourth longest such streak.
Foxx (13), Gehrig (13) and Al Simmons (11) had longer streaks.
Belle's annual salary ranged from $68,000 in 1989 to $12,869,000 in 2000.
In 2006, Belle pleaded guilty to stalking a former girlfriend and was sentenced to three months in jail.