One of the most feared sluggers of his time, Albert Belle averaged more than 100 runs batted in during his 12-year career. From 1993-1997, Belle finished in the top nine in total bases each season, topping the league on three separate occasions. In 1999 Belle became the fourth player to have eight straight seasons of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Lou Gehrig
One of only six players to compile nine consecutive 100+ RBI seasons, Belle’s career was cut short at age 34 by degenerative hip osteoarthritis.
If not for the injury, Belle almost certainly would’ve earned a plaque in Cooperstown. In the ten seasons before his hip gave way, Belle averaged 37 homers, 120 runs batted in, 95 runs, and 38 doubles while hitting .298.
Known for being a prickly character, Belle did not fare well on the writers ballot in Hall of Fame voting.
Buster Only, then of the New York Times wrote of Belle’s malicious eccentricities, “It was a taken in baseball circles that Albert Belle was nuts… The Indians billed him $10,000 a year for the damage he caused in clubhouses on the road and at home, and tolerated his behavior only because he was an awesome slugger… He slurped coffee constantly and seemed to be on a perpetual caffeinated frenzy. Few escaped his wrath: on some days he would destroy the postgame buffet…launching plates into the shower… after one poor at-bat against Boston, he retreated to the visitors’ clubhouse and took a bat to teammate Kenny Lofton‘s boombox. Belle preferred to have the clubhouse cold, below 60 degrees, and when one chilly teammate turned up the heat, Belle walked over, turned down the thermostat and smashed it with his bat. His nickname, thereafter, was ‘Mr. Freeze’.”
In the collection is this contract extension for Belle to appear on Topps baseball cards. Signed by Belle just before the start of the 1997 season, the document calls for a three-year extension between Topps and the slugger.
“When the game was on the line, there was no better clutch player than Albert Belle that I’ve ever seen.”