Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Hello-? Say, do you have Albert Belle in the can-? You do-? Well, don't let him out! (Click)"

(Sigh) Not to go "all Paula Cole" on you, but where have all the heroes from my youth gone-?

First, Manny Ramirez goes "loco" like a pack of Wacky Packages after moving to Bean Town.

Next, after listening to a former great Cleveland quarterback from my youth on Saturday attempt to do "color commentary" for the Browns game, I had to spend a "Weak-End at Bernie's, Too." (We still love ya, Bernie, but stick to what you do best mentoring Charlie Frye.)

And now this...

Former Cleveland Indian, Albert Belle, has been arrested and jailed in Arizona for stalking his girlfriend...

I sure hope someone has put a GPS tracking device on my heart because, as a nostalgic Cleveland sports fan, it has been ripped right out of my body and taken for a joyless ride.

Don't ge me wrong. I'm certainly not defending Albert Belle - or his troubled actions - and I hope his victim can get a little peace of mind now and (hopefully) move on from this horrific mess.

Albert Belle did the crime, now he's got to do the time.

It's just sad that someone with so much talent on the baseball diamond could end up like ...this. And it's not like I don't remember any of Uncle Albert's other "wacky antics" during the 90's here in our beloved C-Town, either, folks.

In fact, when I was a sports editor for my concrete college newspaper down at dear old Cleveland State, one of my reporters actually wrote a story from Winter Haven, Florida claiming that Albert had all the qualities of an "ass muscle" when this cub reporter foolishly tried to interview a rather reluctant Belle.

Of course, that didn't go over with the big "Boss Man" down at the Tribe's public relations department, who quickly got me on the phone only to proclaim that he was yanking our press passes faster than Albert Belle could chase some wayward Trick-or-Treaters off his front treelawn in a Jeep.

To which I truthfully replied at the time (shrugging and hanging up the phone): "So what do I care-? I don't even LIKE baseball..."

So do you SEE where all this tomfoolery gets you in life, kids-? Slinging salacious sports gossip and tantalizing tidbits on the internet, meddling in the lives of famous people, like some busybody down at the cyber-beauty parlor-? You become "the Mary Worth of sports journalism!" (And there isn't even some semi-lucrative, end-of-the-world, newspaper buyout on the horizon either! Or is there...?)

So, sure, maybe comedy and serious sports journalism "don't mix." But my memories of the Tribe during the 90's are still fond ones, nontheless. It just goes to show you, unfortunately, that there is an "ugly side" to sports, as well.

I still got to tour Jacob's Field as a young pup with my "2 Live CSU Crew" while it was being constructed - and somewhere in that stadium is my fresh footprint in a block of cement that has hardened like this psuedo-sports comedian over time...

And I'll always remember the last time I saw Albert Belle, out and about, after I recently graduated from college. My friends and I bumped into him at The Ground Round in Euclid where we sheepishly pondered whether or not to approach him for an autograph as he stood at the bar. We never did.

But Belle was nothing but pleasant to the other customers - it never appeared like he was angry or wanted to "murder somebody" (but if Robert Blake has taught us anything, it's that you never murder anybody outside a busy restaurant, folks ...or some pointless "The More You Know" crap like that ...just something to keep in mind as you rot for all eternity, Baretta!). I just remember Albert smiling and waving at us as we walked out the door...

But, more importantly, I'll always remember Albert Belle's amazing baseball abilities ...on the field ...that I was lucky enough to witness in person.

Like him or not, he was my Babe Ruth.

I'm no doctor (but I play one on YouTube!) so take this with a grain of margarita salt: Here's hoping Albert Belle, and his victims, can finally find some peace in this life that we all deserve...

The id and I - "Episode I: The Phantom McMenace"