He can punch out column with the best


He's the Cyber Slugger. He's a free-lance writer.

He's the competition, for crying out loud!

The Sun gave Albert Belle his big break in journalism, publishing his Christmas poem. But suddenly, he's turning on us like we're the Cleveland Indians.

Belle teased "the Baltimore media" in his latest Web site posting. And today, he makes his reporting debut for the Baltimore Press.

Somehow, Belle found time last night to break away from the keyboard, going 2-for-4 with his 15th homer in the Orioles' 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

He was silent afterward, but it's all starting to make sense now. Belle can't be sleeping with the enemy if he's going to be a one-man media conglomerate.

Quick, someone restructure his incentive clauses.

Twenty homers, Belle gets a radio talk show.

Thirty, he becomes a local TV "friend you can turn to."

Forty, he goes network.

Indeed, Belle's recent activities shed new light on his prickly media persona. Why should any of us expect cooperation when he's secretly after our jobs?

The issue of whether Belle hustles is now settled.

In his quest for media dominance, he's the second coming of Rupert Murdoch.

"We are glad to have Albert on board," Baltimore Press publisher Mark Adams said in a news release. "He has a unique perspective on the world."

Truer words were never spoken.

Now let's see Belle ditch the Major League Baseball Players Association for the Newspaper Guild, where the minimum salary is lower, but the mission is sacred.

Belle's first story for the Baltimore Press is an appreciation of school teachers. Both of his parents were teachers. And Belle was a substitute while at LSU.

Bet those kids didn't ask to go to the restroom.

Whatever, Belle isn't confining himself to print. Next to his locker, he has posted a sign saying, "For interview requests, please refer to my Web site. Thanks, AB."

"A lot of the media visit my site routinely, but I still have yet to receive a media request online," Belle sniffed in yesterday's post. "Guess we'll have to wait and see."

The truth is, none of The Sun's baseball writers has figured out how to request an interview on Belle's site -- we're too busy downloading swimsuit models.

To assist us, Belle yesterday updated the site (www.athletedirect.com) for the first time since explaining his failure to run out a grounder against Philadelphia on June 6.

Every press-box hack would love such time to ponder his thoughts, but when you're earning $13 million a year, you set your own deadlines, buster.

At least Belle shows promise as a writer.

"Things are really coming together for the O's recently," he said. "Everybody acts like they're surprised we're winning now. What people don't realize is that we weren't playing with a full team early in the season. We had a lot of injuries and everybody is back now. We're scoring runs, and the pitchers know that if they hold the opponents down, we're going to score runs for them and it's easy to pitch like that."

Can't take your eyes off the page, can you?

"Our next 12 games are very important," Belle continued. "We're playing within the division and those games count double. If we want to make the playoffs, we need to win ballgames. They're going to be hard-fought battles. They're not going to give us anything, and we're not going to give them anything. It's going to be good competition and that's what it's all about."

Well, the Orioles lost two of three to wild-card leader Boston, and now they play three against the defending world champion New York Yankees without Mike Mussina pitching in the series.

They're seven games under .500. They're 9 1/2 games back in the wild-card race. Their record against AL East opponents is 4-14.

But back to Author Albert:

" I'm going to have fun with the Baltimore media," he wrote. "It seems like whatever I do invokes an article. I put up a sign to joke about the upcoming Rochester game that was meant only to get a laugh from the players and the media `ran with it.' Several players really don't want to go to Rochester, New York, on an off day and I thought I'd have some fun with it. So just in case you're wondering what's next

"Future signs on my locker this season (Sun comments in parentheses)

"1. The O's sign the Original Albert Belle" (his father).

"2. Albert Belle decides to go out for the Ravens" (Can Art Modell afford him?)

"3. Terry Belle sneaks in the game to pinch-hit for Albert." (We can tell the difference between those merry twins!)

Hey, at least Belle showed a sense of humor.

When does he submit his first Top Ten list to David Letterman?

Web sites, newspapers, the question is now is where Belle will strike next.

Writers from other cities expressed sympathy when he signed with the Orioles, mindful of the tension he creates for the media. Little did they know, Belle was a bigger threat to our existence than anyone thought.

He's not talking to me?

I'm not talking to him.

This is war now.

Pub Date: 6/25/99

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