Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Inside Clubhouse, Belle's No Bad Guy Those Close to Slugger Point Up His Good Side

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Inside Clubhouse, Belle's No Bad Guy Those Close to Slugger Point Up His Good Side

Article excerpt

Baseball's most menacing figure made his first appearance at Cinergy Field last weekend, and you didn't know whether to hide your loved ones or find them front-row seats. Such is the attraction-repulsion of one Albert Belle.

"I'd like him hitting fourth on my club," said Reds general manager Jim Bowden, whose team began interleague play against Belle's Chicago White Sox. "I'm not going to comment on anything else."

If only it were that easy. If only you could put Belle in the lineup every day and everyone - teammates, fans, media, life - would leave him alone, then only opposing pitchers would dread the sight of him, and everything would be fine. He could just walk up to the plate and hit the baseball, as few in this or any generation have fathomed. Nobody would disturb his pregame ritual. Nobody would bother him for interviews or autographs or Halloween candy. Nobody would care if he heaved a baseball at a photographer or into the standsg. Nobody would mind if he waylaid Fernando Vina on the basepath or a thermostat in the locker room. Just get out of his way, and marvel at the numbers and the effort of the ballplayer. "I guarantee you," White Sox manager Terry Bevington said, "everyone in this league would like to have Albert Belle." The White Sox signed the 30-year-old outfielder away from the Cleveland Indians for $55 million over five years in the offseason, figuring he could combine with first baseman Frank Thomas to be the next Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig or Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris. Separately, they had ranked 1-2 in RBIs over the last five years (Belle 711, Thomas 698) and 1-3 in home runs (Belle 234, Thomas 215). Together, they could lead the Sox to their first World Series title in 80 years. If only it were that easy. "I can only go from my dealings," White Sox general manager Ron Schueler said about Belle. …

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