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Destructive After channeling his anger over an All-Star Game snub into a home run streak, the White Sox' Albert Belle stood accused of turning his wrath on a woman in a case of domestic battery

July 27, 1998
July 27, 1998

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July 27, 1998

Rattlers [bonus Piece]

Destructive After channeling his anger over an All-Star Game snub into a home run streak, the White Sox' Albert Belle stood accused of turning his wrath on a woman in a case of domestic battery

Throughout his major league career Albert Belle has demonstrated
a distinct pattern: When the surly slugger gets P.O.'d,
baseballs get K.O.'d. His latest offensive barrage--10 home runs
and 20 RBIs in the first 10 games following the All-Star
break--came after he was left off the All-Star team for the
first time in six years. That home run binge was the most recent
of many cases in which Belle has successfully channeled his
frustrations into epic hitting displays.

This is an article from the July 27, 1998 issue

But the anger that seems to drive Belle on the field has
sometimes landed him in trouble off it. On Sunday night the
Chicago White Sox leftfielder was arrested at the home of a
woman acquaintance for allegedly hitting her and ripping her
phone from the wall as she tried to call for help. Belle was
charged with domestic battery, criminal damage to property and
interfering with a report of domestic battery--all
misdemeanors--but he denied the allegations, was released on
$3,000 bond, reported to Comiskey Park for a game on Monday
night and hit yet another homer, his 29th of the season.

Belle's latest on-field explosion came on the heels of what he
perceived to be a snub by American League All-Star manager Mike
Hargrove of the Cleveland Indians. When Belle found out Hargrove
had not added him to the team as a reserve, he lashed out at his
former skipper, for whom he had played six seasons. "If Hargrove
was his own man, I would have been picked," Belle said. "He is
another person who doesn't appreciate what I did for him."

Though Belle finished 13th among American League outfielders in
fan balloting, he arguably had the offensive numbers (.278, 18
homers and 66 RBIs before the break) to merit inclusion as the
White Sox' representative. But with Hargrove selecting the
reserves, Belle never stood a chance. Last season Cleveland
hosted the midsummer festivities, which were tainted by Belle's
childish efforts to avoid showing his face to fans at Jacobs
Field, who still resent his leaving the Indians as a free agent
following the 1996 season. After being booed during
introductions, Belle went so far as to ask American League
manager Joe Torre not to play him unless he was needed. "He was
chosen for the All-Star Game last year, and he didn't
participate in anything," said Hargrove. "I'm not going to waste
a spot on somebody who doesn't want to play." So Hargrove tapped
another White Sox player for the squad, second baseman Ray
Durham, who was hitting .283 with seven homers and 20 stolen
bases at the break.

When Cleveland visited Chicago last weekend, Belle got his
revenge. On Friday night Indians righthander Charles Nagy kept
Belle in the yard in his first two at bats. Then, in the sixth
inning, during Belle's third plate appearance, some fans began
mocking Belle with chants of "Jo-ey, Jo-ey," the name he used to
go by (his middle name is Jojuan) until insisting in 1990 that
he be called by his given name, Albert. On a 3-1 count, Belle
hit one into the White Sox bullpen for his 10th tater in 41
post-All-Star at bats, a stretch in which he had batted .778
with men in scoring position, raised his season batting average
to .300 and moved into the top three in the league in homers and
RBIs. "Everybody's streaky," says Cleveland catcher Sandy
Alomar, Belle's teammate with the Indians for seven years. "Some
people are streaky bad, then streaky hot. Guys like Albert,
Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, they get streaky hot hot."

In the last four years Belle seems to have gotten hot hot on the
field whenever an opponent has slighted him. While with
Cleveland in July 1994, Belle had his bat impounded by umpires
at the request of then White Sox manager Gene Lamont. In the 20
games between the confiscation and the strike that ended the
season--seven of which he missed because of a suspension after
an X-ray revealed cork in the bat--Belle hit .476 with 10 homers
and 23 RBIs.

After homering in Game 1 of the '95 Division Series against the
Boston Red Sox, Belle had his bat seized again at the request of
the Red Sox. This time, the bat was sawed in half and no
evidence of tampering was found. Belle avenged that harassment
by hitting .333 and driving in nine runs in seven games against
Boston the following April. When he returned to Jacobs Field on
June 3, 1997, for the first time after signing his five-year,
$55 million free-agent contract with Chicago, Belle was booed
and verbally abused by fans. His response: three hits, including
a homer; three RBIs; and one obscene gesture.

Though White Sox manager Jerry Manuel has a rather mundane
explanation for Belle's latest batting tear--"I think the rest
over the break really helped him"--those who have played with
Belle over the years say that the outfielder tends to tap into a
reserve tank of orneriness. Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, a
former teammate, once described the eruptions of Mount Albert
that usually accompanied a Belle hot streak: "Something every
day. Throw the cooler, break the phone, cookies all over the
place."

Since Belle arrived in Chicago, his early-season play has nearly
made White Sox fans toss their cookies. He hit .206 with four
homers in April 1997 as Chicago staggered to an 8-17 start.
Belle had another miserable start this year, batting .239 in
April as Chicago went 10-15. At week's end the White Sox were a
dozen games out of a playoff spot and pondering whether to
unload pricey veterans for the second summer in a row. Belle,
however, won't waive his no-trade clause, and it's not as if
teams are lining up to acquire him.

Sunday's arrest makes him all the more undesirable. The three
misdemeanor charges each carry a penalty of up to a year in jail
and a $2,500 fine. The woman Belle allegedly struck, Stephanie
Bugusky, 25, with whom he had a "dating relationship," according
to police, won a temporary order of protection against him at a
hearing on Monday. Police in the Chicago suburb of Alsip, where
Bugusky resides, said Belle allegedly damaged a door, a window
and telephones in her apartment. Belle did not resist arrest,
police said, and Bugusky did not need medical attention.

Belle frequently made headlines with on- and off-field flare-ups
while with the Indians. But other than major league baseball's
recent investigation into his acknowledged gambling on sporting
events--it was determined that he had not bet on baseball--he
had stayed out of trouble since joining Chicago. When Belle took
the field after his homer off Nagy, the 300th of his career,
fans in left bowed to him.

At the time, it seemed things were looking up for Belle and the
White Sox. Big crowds were showing up at Comiskey for the first
time all year, and Belle was directing his anger at opposing
pitchers. But suddenly there was the question of whether Belle
had turned that anger on a more vulnerable target once again.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN GREEN [Albert Belle batting in game]