CLEVELAND -- Roberto Alomar and Albert Belle.
Once it seemed inconceivable that their names would be linked in infamy, but now it's becoming commonplace.
Belle, the Cleveland Indians slugger, is notorious as one of baseball's bad guys for chasing down trick-or-treaters in his truck, cursing out a TV reporter and throwing a baseball at a photographer, among other things.
Alomar has been guilty of one ugly incident -- spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck last Saturday, then saying Hirschbeck's demeanor had changed because of his son's death in 1993.
Alomar's subsequent five-game suspension, to be served in 1997, sparked a protest by umpires, who worked yesterday's games only after a federal judge ruled they couldn't strike.
Yesterday at Jacobs Field, Alomar was greeted just as Belle would be at any ballpark other than Cleveland's. Alomar was booed ferociously any time his name was announced, any time he took a strike, any time he made a play. Fans held up signs that read "spit shield" any time he came to the dugout.
"For me it was a little bit different," Alomar said after the Orioles' 9-4 loss in Game 3. "The fans and that. But I expected it. It's like Albert Belle going to another stadium.
"It's the same thing for me. That's the way it is. I just have to go out there [today] and just be focused on the game again."
Alomar said he is deeply sorry for the incident, and regrets what he did and said. He said the Baltimore fans, his family and teammates are helping him get through this period.
Still, he knew the Cleveland fans would not be as forgiving.
"That's life," Alomar said. "That's the way life is. I think whenever we make mistakes we have to bounce back and that's the way I'm going to do it."
Yesterday's umpire crew got a reception just the opposite of Alomar's. They were cheered when they took the field.
"We've never had an outpouring of support like that," said Durwood Merrill, who worked behind the plate yesterday.
Alomar did not have any conflicts with the umpires yesterday. In the top of the third inning, it appeared that he foul-tipped a third strike and that the ball was trapped by the Indians catcher, his brother Sandy. Merrill, working behind the plate, called Alomar out. Alomar shot a glance toward Merrill, but quietly returned to the dugout.
Alomar went 0-for-3 and is hitting just .182 through three playoff games. He is in a 3-for-24 slump in his last seven games. However, Alomar said his struggles have nothing to do with the boo-birds, who were also scattered among the Camden Yards (( crowd in the Orioles' two home playoff games.
"I just focus on the game," Alomar said. "They're trying to get you out of the game, but you have to stay focused and play the game the way I know how to play the game."
Alomar's teammate Pete Incaviglia said it's hard to focus when fans run down to the on-deck circle to berate you and hold signs that read "spit shield" when you come to the dugout.
"Sure, it affects him," Incaviglia said, "because he's a good guy and a warm-hearted guy and he just wants to play baseball. He apologized and said he made a mistake."
Alomar said he's trying to move on, and wants to put the incident behind him.
"I'm going to be focused on the game of baseball and whatever happened in the past is in the past," Alomar said.
"I have to look forward to what can happen now, and help this team win [today]."
Pub Date: 10/05/96