Brown saws, Belle howls case closed

October 05, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

CLEVELAND -- Albert Belle was guilty once. And as long as he keeps hitting mammoth home runs, opponents will presume he might be guilty again.

Who needs O.J.?

Give us more confiscated bats.

More allegations and denials.

More hilarious scenes like the one that took place at Jacobs Field in the wee hours of yesterday morning.

There was former American League president Bobby Brown, staring intently at Belle's black bat.

And there was Indians groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke, using a handsaw to split it open at the barrel.

What would emerge?

Cork? Rubber balls? Nuclear waste material?

Not this time.

It was wood, only wood.

The evidence was on display in the interview room yesterday. Photographers reacted as if they had just discovered the bloody glove.

"Bob Brown split the bat open so it's in two pieces," Belle sneered Tuesday night. "He knows what he can do with those two pieces."

Brown and Belle, the heart doctor and the bat doctor.

They're intimately acquainted, seeing as how Brown suspended Belle four straight seasons, including seven games for corking his bat last year.

Brown is now retired as AL president, but he was in Cleveland to administer the series and reprise his role as Belle's personal commissioner.

Weren't their annual confrontations supposed to be over?

"I think Albert and I both were looking forward to that," Brown said.

You've heard of Will "The Thrill" Clark.

Call him Albert "The Drill" Belle.

He has hit 61 home runs in 165 games since the initial confiscation in Chicago, including his blast off Rick Aguilera that tied the score in the 11th inning Tuesday night.

Tony Pena won it for Cleveland with a two-out homer off Zane Smith in the 13th. The game, twice delayed by rain, ended at 2:08 a.m.

Why didn't Brown just get the bat X-rayed, so that Belle could continue using the wood with which he had slugged 10 homers in his past 13 games?

For one thing, Corky Park -- er, Jacobs Field -- lacks an X-ray machine. For another, time was of the essence, Brown said.

"At 3 a.m., you don't walk into an emergency room and say, 'I want to have a bat X-rayed,' " explained Brown, a former cardiologist.

Why not just wait?

"In the previous episode, we went through a fairly lengthy process of bats disappearing, bats reappearing, bats being exchanged and so forth," Brown said, referring to last year's shenanigans in Chicago.

"We were in the midst of this playoff, and thought there was an emergency nature because of the time element. We only had a five-game series. I didn't want a big distraction. I wanted to get the answer very quickly."

Well, he got it.

Free Albert Belle.

"A desperate attempt to throw a monkey wrench into our season," Belle sniffed.

"Albert thrives on being able to get mad at somebody," Indians reliever Jim Poole said. "Well, here we go. Thank you."

Belle reacted to the confiscation by screaming obscenities at the Red Sox dugout, bashing forearms with Alvaro Espinoza and pointing to his biceps as his power source.

Afterward, Boston manager Kevin Kennedy said he had "information" from inside his organization that Belle might be using a corked bat.

Boston general manager Dan Duquette went even further, claiming it wasn't just Belle drawing suspicion, but "a couple of the Cleveland hitters."

Indeed, you half-expected Kennedy to be accompanied by Marcia Clark when he took the podium in the interview room yesterday.

"Baseball is a small circle," Kennedy said. "A lot of guys jump to different clubs, a lot of things go on. It's a fraternity."

Kennedy didn't elaborate, but he might have been referring to a comment by reliever Steve Farr after Boston acquired him from Cleveland last season.

"They've got a whole woodworking shop in that place," Farr said.

Whatever, Kennedy said he was "glad" that Belle was found innocent, "relieved, really" that both teams were using legal equipment.

Nah, Kennedy didn't want Belle suspended.

Perish the thought.

Indians manager Mike Hargrove said he didn't approve of such gamesmanship in the postseason. Still, he claimed he wasn't angry with the Red Sox, who had acted within the rules.

"There's a very good possibility it could be a recurring thing with Albert," Hargrove said.

"It's something I'll have to deal with the rest of my career," Belle added.

This time, Brown knew what to do. Umpire Tim Welke handed the bat to an attendant, who turned it over to major-league security officer Al Williams.

In Chicago, the bat had been stolen out of the umpires' room. Williams took no such chances, clutching the evidence until Brown ordered open-bat surgery.

"He guarded it with his life," Brown said proudly.

Belle was convicted, now he's innocent.

Who needs O.J.?

Cork Chop lives.

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