July 1, 1996 in Sports

Belle Just Has To Apologize

Terry Pluto Akron Beacon Journal

Some people will want Albert Belle suspended for Gator-gate.

Others will settle for him being shot at sunrise. I just want Belle to say he’s sorry.

That’s it.

It’s that simple.

Just say he’s sorry.

I don’t want to hear that he didn’t really throw a cup of Gatorade at a Chicago television camera man last Thursday.

I don’t want to hear that maybe, just maybe, he kicked it. Or maybe, just maybe, some of the stuff landed on the camera man.

I sure don’t want to hear that Belle didn’t mean to kick the cup.

Or that it was a gust of wind. Or maybe a twister.

You never know.

Yes, we do know.

We know that Belle was unhappy with his month-long slump and with the pounding the Indians were taking in Chicago.

We could see he wasn’t thrilled when Mike Hargrove removed him in the seventh inning of what became a 15-10 defeat.

Hargrove wasn’t angry at Belle, the Tribe manager was just letting some of his bench players have a few at-bats in a game that was a lost cause.

But, as he chases Roger Maris’ record, Belle prizes every plate appearance as if it were a $1,000 bill.

And we all know that Belle can be as grumpy as a hungry grizzly when things don’t go his way.

The next thing we know, a TV cameraman in the box in the far corner of the Tribe dugout (where cameramen always work) was doused by Gatorade.

He said Belle threw the cup.

Belle’s apologists said it was more of a kick.

Belle, as usual, isn’t talking.

But it doesn’t matter.

It’s not a big deal.

It would not even be an issue if Belle had simply walked over to the guy and said, “Hey, I’m sorry I (kicked…threw…or the wind blew) Gatorade all over you and the your camera.”

Then Belle could have grabbed a towel and helped the guy.

Isn’t that what most of us do when we spill something, even if it’s an accident?

We try to be civil.

We help clean it up.

We apologize.

Instead, Belle stormed out of the dugout and down the runway into the clubhouse, leaving friend and coach Dave Nelson to make the apologies.

Soon, the details were debated as a way excusing Belle.

…The guy asked for it by pointing his camera at Belle after he had made an out and returned to the dugout.

…Albert didn’t throw anything, he just kicked the cup in anger and had no idea where the Gatorade flew.

…The White Sox set him up, just as Belle said they did last season with the corked bat.

The cameraman works for WGN, which carries the White Sox games wherever they play.

He was just doing his job - nothing that has not been done for years during the broadcast of a baseball game.

Belle is human.

So is the cameraman. The guy would have understood if Belle said: “Hey, I just flipped out for a moment. It’s nothing personal.”

There might even have been a newspaper story the next day about how Albert Belle had apologized.

About how he acted like a caring human being to a dreaded member of the media.

Belle seems to think that being a big-leaguer means never having to say you’re sorry.

But the cameraman got wet, and Belle had something to do with it. A little damage control would have done a lot to help the situation.

But there is a part of Albert Belle that simply won’t allow that.

He can be like any stubborn person you’ve met. The guy about whom people say, “There was one time when he thought he was wrong - but then he realized he had made a mistake.”

Belle spends so much time and energy stonewalling after his incidents (the corked bat, the thrown ball, Hannah Storm, etc.), it has turned even some of his strongest supporters against him.

What Belle did in Chicago was dumb. Not a federal offense - and not worthy of a suspension.

Still, it was wrong.

So why not apologize? It’s the right thing to do.<

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