Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1989 Topps Major League Debut #14: Joey Belle

Albert Belle

This is one of the most interesting cards in the set, as it shows Belle called "Joey," the name he went by before he supposedly grew up and went back to his real first name of Albert. Turns out, he didn't grow up so much as he had more than his share of problematic situations arise in the years to come.

PHOTO: This is just a fantastic photo that captures exactly what Belle looked like on the field. He was always glaring like that, and he was a tough son of a gun.

STAT: Belle is the only guy ever to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season. He's also one of just 16 guys in history with at least 2 seasons with 375 total bases.

CAREER: 7/10

Belle was totally robbed of the 1995 AL MVP. He's a tough guy to rank given that he lost the last third of his career to a degenerative hip. Before the injury surfaced in 2000, he never posted an OPS+ below 116 in any full season while averaging 38 HR. His career OPS+ of 143 is absolutely astonishing. And although he batted only .230 in the post-season, he had 6 HR and 14 RBI in 18 career games and was a big part of the Indians' post-season success.

It's interesting to note how his injury hurt the Orioles' franchise. I remember that there was a claim from Lloyd's of London that the nature of Belle's injury wasn't covered by the insurance policy that the Orioles had purchased on Belle's contract. I don't know how that turned out. But even if the Orioles got reimbursed for Belle's salary, losing one of their biggest free agent catches of all time definitely hurt their team for years to follow. I don't think they've yet recovered from that misfortune.


  1. belle is in the top 5 of my 'hardest hit balls seen in person' list. mccovey, stargell, canseco, belle and delgado. not necessarily in that order.

  2. You're definitely right about Belle and the Orioles. His injury wasn't the only reason things went south, as the farm system had dried up long before and owner Peter Angelos' meddling had already driven away great baseball men like Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson. But people act like it was a fiasco to even sign Belle in the first place, and that's a misconception. As you said, he absolutely mashed in Cleveland and Chicago, and kept it up for his first year in Baltimore. The hip condition was a freak thing that no one could have seen coming. They did collect the insurance, but it was a big blow. All you have to do is look at the stats for the guys that played in place of Belle in the ensuing years.

  3. I agree with Kevin. Belle's loss was a blow to the Orioles for 2-3 years, but after that, they've got no one to blame but Mr. Angelos.