Albert Belle is a forgotten man. Despite averaging 40 home runs and 130 RBIs over every 162 games during his career, Belle is rarely mentioned as a feared slugger that tormented American League pitchers from 1989-2000 while playing for the Indians, White Sox and Orioles.
That’s largely because Albert Belle was perceived to be as surly as he was talented. (Hurling baseballs at heckling fans didn’t help, either.)
An early report filed by Phillies’ scout Eddie Bockman noted Belle’s moodiness and suggested it would keep him from becoming a major leaguer.
Per the 1991 document (below), Bockman stated about “Al Belle,” then an outfielder for the Indians who had switched his name from Joey Belle:
• “Has some power, but contact is a problem.”
• “On a short look can’t help.”
• “Attitude problem. AAA Best”
To be fair, prior to the start of the 1991 season, Belle hadn’t been productive, hitting just .220 with 8 home runs in 241 big league at-bats. Bockman could have paired those stats with the slugger’s rep to damn him to AAA status.
Belle went on to swat 28 HRs and hit .282 with an OPS of .863 in 1991. The 1991 Phillies’ starting outfield of Wes Chamberlain, Lenny Dykstra and Dale Murphy hit 34 HRs combined.
Belle would go on to make five all-star teams in the next seven years, finishing in the top 10 of the MVP balloting five times.
A hip injury curtailed Belle’s career, but who knows how long he’d have had to play to accumulate statistics that would have resonated louder than his icy glare.