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March 5, 2014 at 10:38 pm ET
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Beast Mode: B&C’s exclusive interview with Albert Belle

Albert Belle was a beast. Not only in the batter’s box, but also in the locker room and with the media. Perhaps the best way to put it would be to say that Albert Belle moved unapologetically through the baseball world, and walked away as one of the most feared hitters of the past quarter-century.

The man who is the only player to post 50 homers and 50 doubles in a single season, and should have been named the the American League’s Most Valuable Player for 1995, took a few minutes to chat with us Wednesday afternoon, and we learned that he refers to Buck Showalter as “Bucky,” the alterations he’d make to the MVP voting process, why he once called Peter Angelos an idiot, that not a single pitcher in today’s game would intimidate him and his greatest motivation on the golf course.

To you, the loyal and learned B&C reader, we proudly present Albert Jojuan Belle:

With hitters the caliber of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez batting sixth and seventh, will we ever see another line-up, as you once said, “dish out lumps” like the ’95 Indians ever again?

I don’t think we’re going to see that type of line-up ever again. You look at those guys, pretty much one-through-nine, there wasn’t a weak link. We were all on the same page as far as hitting, how to approach different pitchers, but the great thing about that team is we always rooted for each other and we knew if one person couldn’t get the job done somebody else would. It seemed like every night it was a different guy being the hero.

When it comes to MVP, it seems to vary from season-to-season with the voters, but do you feel the MVP should go to the best player or the best player on a playoff-bound team?
Well, if you look at ’95, obviously we were the best team and I was the best player on the best team. Obviously the reason why I didn’t get the MVP was because I wasn’t the voters’ favorite player and it just seems like each year, they use different criteria to vote on the players. I think Most Valuable Player should go to the best position player on the best team and the best pitcher in the league should get the Cy Young.

Over the past two seasons, who was more valuable — Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout?
I’ve got to go with Miguel Cabrera. When you look at batting average, when you look at home runs, when you look at RBIs, when you look at a guy getting on base and scoring runs, (Cabrera’s) going to do some damage in the line-up. He won the Triple Crown, he should have been the MVP, though I know there’s been some debate about Mike Trout. I know he hit over .300, I know he can score a lot of runs and he can save runs with his glove, but you look at Detroit as a winning team and Anaheim was a losing team. So do you go with the best player on the best team or do you go with the best on the worst, and I think you should go with Miguel Cabrera because he was the best player on the best team.
You alluded to that ’95 MVP, are you at peace with the fact that you didn’t win that award because of your unpopularity with the writers or does it still irk you that Mo Vaughn has the hardware?
No, it doesn’t bother me. When you look at the sport of baseball, it is about team players. If you look at the guys around me (in ’95), they helped put me in a situation to succeed, more so than any other player that year, and if they don’t succeed then I don’t get the opportunity to succeed, so all my success was based on part of their success. We were a great team, and if you look at the Boston Red Sox, they made it with 86 wins and we made it as the best team in the American League, and obviously you see what happened when we went head-to-head in the playoffs. (Vaughn) didn’t get a hit and I came up with some big hits and was able to help our team win the American League championship and get to the World Series and have some success in the World Series.
At least I know they didn’t vote for me because they didn’t like me. (The voters) will all tell you they knew I had the best stats, I was the best player on the best team and should have gotten the MVP, but didn’t because they didn’t like me. The stats weren’t the problem, but I haven’t lost an ounce of sleep since I didn’t get it, but I am happy with the fact that the players, my peers, voted me as the Sporting News Player of the Year, and I think that means a lot.
I think the MVP voting should be done just like the Heisman Trophy voting. It should be split where media get half the vote and maybe former MVPs get the the other half of the vote. I think that’s fair because players have to have some say-so about MVP because they’re out on the field playing against people all the time, and they can tell you exactly who they think the MVP is, so they should have votes.
Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had a reputation for being not-so-friendly on game day, much as you did, so I have to ask — did you ever have an interaction with a media member where you shared something along the lines of “My job is to drive in runs, not talk with you?” Why do you feel some of the fans and media cling so tightly to the perceived importance of approachability?
My approach to the game, and I’ll spell it out again as I’ve tried to spell it out over the years, was that before the game I was in the process of getting ready for the game. I go through a certain routine that worked for a while, and I didn’t have a problem if I was respected before the game of not being approached, then once I was able to perform I didn’t have a problem giving an interview after the game. That seemed to have worked in Chicago with the White Sox because I was able to sit down between the public relations guy and the owner and I explained to them what I wanted to do, and the media in Chicago respected that. For some reason, it didn’t happen in Cleveland and it didn’t happen in Baltimore, so that’s when things got a little difficult. But everything was smooth in Chicago, everybody respected me before the game and I talked with the media after the game. Now, I wasn’t going to talk with them all the time, but I did talk to the media and for some reason that kind of got lost in the shuffle.
You’d once said you felt that Orioles owner Peter Angelos was “an idiot.” Can you shed some light on why you’ve felt that way about him?
Here’s the thing about Peter Angelos, if you noticed in the last few years he’s let a great baseball person, in Bucky Showalter, make decisions and he’s succeeded, Bucky Showalter’s done a great job in Baltimore. When you look at when Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles back in 1996, ’97 when he was able to make decisions they were winners, but in between, when the owner gets involved in making baseball decisions things get complicated. Obviously, they had that run where they were losing, but once Peter Angelos figured out “Hey, let me let these great baseball people,” because he’s had some great baseball people, and he’s never let them make decisions, but at one point he was letting them make decisions and they were winning, now he’s letting Bucky Showalter make decisions and they’re winning. If you’re going to hire great baseball people, you have to let them make decisions, and obviously the owner’s going to have final say-so on things, but on day-to-day things on the field and in the dug out, you have to let great baseball people make those decisions.
To this day, it remains the most terrifying 1-2 punch I’ve seen in baseball — Frank Thomas and Albert Belle batting third and fourth for the White Sox. Before you went to the South Side, did you field any recruitment calls from the Big Hurt?
No, I had a face-to-face meeting with Jerry Reinsdorf and he wanted to sit down and talk baseball and he liked me, I liked him, and I think he was very shocked at how I came across, how personable I was and how adamant I was about my love of baseball and we seemed to have hit it off from the beginning. As an owner, if he was going to make a commitment, he wanted to know exactly what he was getting in the process, so he was happy with the way things went and I ended up signing with Chicago. I had the chance to bat behind Frank Thomas in ’97 when he won the batting title and that was a pretty impressive display of hitting. Obviously I saw a few of Miguel Cabrera’s games when he hit for the Triple Crown, but Frank Thomas put on an incredible display of hitting that year. (Thomas) hit for power, hit for average, drove in runs, took his walks, scored some runs, he pretty much did it all.
Were you the best hitter of your era?
I would not say I was the best hitter of my era, but I would say I was the most productive. If you look at the stats, when I drove in the most runs, which was the ’90s, you have to remember that I didn’t even have that many at-bats in the 1990s. I basically did it in nine seasons instead of ten seasons, so when you look at the names playing at that time, I was able to outperform them and drive in the most runs, I consider that a pretty nice touch.
If you played today, what kind of numbers would you put up?
I feel like I would do the same as I did or probably better. I notice nowadays, pitchers are not as intimidating as back in my day when you’re looking out on the mound and you might see a Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan and a lot of other guys who were really intimidating. Nobody who pitches today would intimidate me.
Heading into the 2014 season, what player reminds you most of yourself on the field?
I rarely get to watch many baseball games, I have the MLB package and I watch a few innings here and there, but I don’t really get to watch a whole game from start to finish, but you’ve got to love watching Miguel Cabrera. The one guy I do like is Prince Fielder because he’ll run out there every day and that means a lot to a team and I know he takes great pride in that, because it seems like a lot of guys are breaking down, even Cabrera will have an occasional back spasm or something, but it’s a tough sport trying to go out there and play every day. You’re going to get banged up at some point and you have to play through the pain and even play when you’re sick, too. I played a couple times when I had the flu, but it’s tough to do, play every day, and you don’t have that many guys running out there for 162 games a year, so it’s a tough sport.
I know you said you don’t get to watch as many games as you’d like, but who is your favorite to win the World Series this fall?
I’ve been watching the MLB Network and they’re doing the 30 Teams in 30 Days and probably the most intriguing team is Kansas City. Everybody’s predicting them to squeak in there and make the playoffs. The thing about the Detroit Tigers is what are you going to get out of Justin Verlander — is he going to return to Cy Young form or is he going to be a barely .500 pitcher, you just never know. So there’s a lot of intrigue in that American League Central, but I have looked at the Indians and I’m not quite sure, exactly, why they let their number two and their number three starter get away. I guess they’re going to go with some young pitchers, but that’s going to be a lot to ask of those guys to pick up the pace and make the playoffs.
We’ve always wondered about that time you steamrolled Fernando Vina in Milwaukee, he didn’t have anything to say while you were standing near him, but started chirping as you walked away. What did he have to say from a distance?
I don’t remember, but I told (Vina) the time before that when Eddie Murray hit a ground ball to second base and I thought he was just going to flip the ball to second base and turn the double play, but he came into the baseline and I told him “Next time, don’t do that.” Sure enough, next at-bat, Eddie Murray hits the same ground ball and here comes Vina into the baseline and I ran over him and I said “I told you I was going to run over you, so you can’t get mad about it.” He was pretty tough, he bounced right back up and started chirping. I don’t remember what he was saying, but it’s all talk.
You said tomorrow’s your golf day. What’s your handicap?
It’s pretty good, it goes up and down. Depends on whether you make putts and if you hit the ball in the desert or not. The good thing about golf right now is that the rattlesnakes make great golf instructors, because you do not want to hit the ball into the desert and come up on a rattlesnake because you think that if you get close to one they’re going to start rattling, but that’s not the case, so you want to keep the ball on the grass.
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4 Responses to “Beast Mode: B&C’s exclusive interview with Albert Belle”
  1. CDawgg says:

    Gotta love #8.

  2. J.W.Jones says:

    True Story:

    My wife was in labor on opening day, April 1st, 1997 and I was eating popcicles watching the game between the White Sox and I believe it was the Blue Jays while she was moaning away.

    Here comes the baby!! Right as the baby is crowning Albert Belle crushes a ball deep and immediately grasping the awesomeness of the situation I start cheering, “Go, Go, Go!” willing the ball over the outfield fence. Later when I explained to my wife what had happened she was disappointed because she thought I was cheering her on and not Albert Belles shot.

    An opening day homerun while my child is being born. Star Spangled Banner, baby.

  3. Lando says:

    That is a great story, J.W.. Please tell us you named the kid Joey…

  4. Hi,

    MLB team Cleveland Indians Albert Belle is the first to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in a season. If he plays today, he will be doing better. Its a great interview with Albert Belle.

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