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Wild Baseball 3: Albert Belle’s Corked Bat

Cleveland Indians’ left fielder Albert Belle was an excellent hitter. Between 1991 and 2000 he was among the most consistent hitters in baseball, finishing in the top-three of the MVP race three times. Among his best years was the shortened 1994 season when he hit .357 with 36 home runs and an OPS of 1.152. That final number would have led the entire MLB in 2019. Oh, and he’s a real jerk. Take for instance a body slam of infielder Fernando Vina in ’96 to break up a double play.

July 15, 1994: Indians vs. White Sox

Regardless, Belle’s talent in the ’94 season was unquestionable. Until someone questioned it. In just his second game back after playing in the All-Star game, Albert Belle’s bat would be challenged by White Sox manager Gene Lamont who had been tipped off that it was corked. The bat was confiscated and locked away to be inspected later.

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Grimsley’s Heist

The Indians knew that Albert Belle’s bat was corked and there would be no way for him to escape punishment if the bat was examined. So Cleveland sent reliever Jason Grimsley to swap out Belle’s bat with an uncorked one. Grimsley climbed into the ceiling with a flashlight in his mouth and crawled along the tiles from the clubhouse until he was above the umpire’s room. He hopped down on a refrigerator, swapped bats, and climbed back up. This is absurd. Grimsley went on an hour and a half mission like he was John McClane, just to try and clear his teammate’s name. That shows either how much Belle meant to the Indians or how insanely stupid Grimsley was.

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How They Got Caught

Unfortunately, this plan was so wild that it was doomed from the beginning. Every single one of Albert Belle’s bats was corked, so Grimsley had to settle for a new bat belonging to Paul Sorrento. He did his best to make the bat look used, but it wasn’t convincing enough. There was also the fact that Sorrento’s name was on the bat. And the fact that pieces of ceiling tiles were scattered on the floor. It was obvious something was wrong. The Chicago Police and even a former FBI agent were called in to examine the scene and it became clear that the Indians were screwed. When the American League threatened to bring the FBI in to investigate further, Cleveland caved and produced Albert Belle’s bat to prevent further punishment.

Batgate: The crazy story of Albert Belle's corked bat (VIDEO) | FOX Sports

What Next?

Just three days after the game in which the bat was confiscated, MLB x-rayed and then sawed Albert Belle’s bat in half in front of him and the Indians’ GM. Obviously, it was corked. Belle was suspended for ten games but had it reduced to seven on appeal. Ultimately, none of it would matter, as the 1994 season was canceled due to the strike with Cleveland one game out of first place in the AL Central.

Albert Belle continued to have productive seasons in Cleveland, Chicago, and finally Baltimore. As for Grimsley, he would go on to pitch for the New York Yankees, where he revealed his role in the plot to the New York Times. Later on, Grimsley would be busted for PEDs and in 2018 Belle was arrested for DUI and indecent exposure, showing again the characters of the two ballplayers.

Read More Wild Baseball

Wild Baseball 1: Len Koenecke

Wild Baseball 2: When the Red Sox Let Their Best Players Walk

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