Albert Belle: Hall of Famer on the Field, Hall of Shame off It
Congrats to Jim Rice for making it to Cooperstown after 15 years of waiting. At least he made it. Albert won't have to wait, since he was prematurely made ineligible, though he was an undisputedly dominant player on the field before his career was cut short.
Resourcing from Wikipedia and memory:
Belle was the only one with 50 doubles and home runs in the same season in 1995, and before Belle the last player to reach as many as 40 in both categories was Willie Stargell in 1973. Mo Vaughn won the MVP award due to Albert's lack of popularity though. 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.
Belle was also considered a model of consistency, compiling a .295 career batting average and averaging 37 home runs and 120 RBI a season during the 10 healthy 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. He became the fourth player to have eight straight seasons of 30 home runs and 100 RBI, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Lou Gehrig.
In Belle's first year of Hall of Fame eligibility (2006), he garnered only 7.7 percent 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, he garnered only 19 votes (3.5 percent) and dropped off the ballot.
I am stunned to find out that he was a former Boy Scout and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. In high school, Belle was a member of the National Honor Society and vice-president of the local Future Business Leaders of America.
After retirement at the very early age of 34, he took accounting classes at Arizona State to learn business so he could better manage his money. That was, until he was arrested for stalking a former girlfriend.
Kirby Puckett played during the same time but was perceived as a better guy and was admitted to Cooperstown.
Albert Belle's career on the field clearly deserves Hall of Fame consideration, personality aside, though he might have to stand next to Ty Cobb in the family photo. Hopefully, the veteran's committee overturns the voters' premature discard of Belle in the future.
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