Former Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle was one of the most feared hitters throughout his career.
The right-handed batter was a critical part of the middle of the Indians’ order.
Known for his tremendous power, Belle was always a run producing threat at the plate.
He was also known as a controversial star among fans, writers and players, with his name being included in a variety of controversies during his time in the league.
However, you can’t deny his talent on the field.
From 1991, when he really broke into the league, until his retirement in 2000, he was truly a force in the batter’s box.
— FOX Sports Cleveland (@FOXSportsCLE) April 5, 2020
Though he was never a very good defender, he more than made up for it at the plate.
Over his 12-year career, he hit 30-plus home runs in eight of them, all in a row from 1992-1999.
This includes the 1995 season where he led the MLB in home runs.
He hit 50 that year, 10 more than any other hitter.
On top of this, he added 52 doubles to his slash line, posting a staggering .690 slugging percentage.
Somehow, he ended up being just the runner-up in the MVP.
However, Belle had an extremely abbreviated career.
He retired from the MLB in just his age 33 season, a young age for a slugger like Belle.
What ever happened to him?
Why did Belle, who was still producing at a high level, leave the sport at this time?
Here is a breakdown of his career and how a career destined for the Hall of Fame was suddenly derailed.
A Premier Player
His name is sometimes forgotten among the best hitters of the time.
In a three-year stretch from 1994-1996, Belle was among the top home run hitters in league while posting outstanding batting averages.
This included a .357 mark in the strike shortened 1994 season, good for fourth in the MLB.
For a power hitter like Belle, this stat may stand out the most of any in his career.
This wasn’t just an anomaly either.
In 1998, Belle posted a staggering stat line.
He had a major 49 home runs, 152 RBIs, a .328 batting average and a .655 slugging percentage.
Unfortunately, the infamous home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa took up most of the media attention and caused Belle’s season to go under the radar.
He is also the source of one of the craziest baseball highlights ever:
Albert Belle cleanly and legally breaks up a double play 💪 pic.twitter.com/BuapMB590y
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) July 11, 2020
Hip Injury Ruined His Career
In the 2001 Spring Training, Belle suffered a hip injury while with the Baltimore Orioles.
It was a severe case of degenerative arthritis in his right hip, effectively ending his career.
This put a sudden stop on the career of one of the best hitters during the time.
The injury cut down any chances the right-handed batter had of making the Hall of Fame, especially with how unliked he was in the sport.
Because of this, the history of Belle’s career has been seemingly covered up, especially as he has muddied his name in his retirement.
In 2018, Belle was arrested for drunk driving and indecent exposure in Phoenix.
This further showed issues that he had with alcohol, even during his career.
These issues plus more went towards derailing his career and painting a negative image of Belle when looking back at the MLB history books.
Belle Could’ve Been A Hall Of Famer
In just 12 years, Belle put up tremendous career numbers.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 6, 2018
This is including his first two seasons where he just had 241 total at-bats.
However, even with this, Belle posted 381 home runs with a .295 batting average.
He had a 162-game average of 40 home runs and 130 RBIs which, over 10 seasons is a truly amazing line.
If he never had to deal with the hip injury that ended his career, he was on pace to have a Hall of Fame career.
By making it to his age 38 season (just five more years), Belle could have easily tallied more than 500 home runs for his career.
If he had done this, he would likely have made it into Cooperstown.
Unfortunately, his career instead came to an abrupt end due to the major injury.