Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Black Diamond Belle

One of the best baseball villains of the 1990s was Indians/White Sox/Orioles outfielder Albert "Joey" Belle.  His career started with the Indians in the last 80s, when he was briefly known as Joey, and was an MVP candidate by his second full season in 1992 when he posted a .260/.320/.477 line with 34 home runs and 112 RBIs.  The next four seasons (1993-1997) saw Belle finish in the Top 10 in MVP voting and make the American League All-Star team.  Honestly, I have no idea how Belle did not win an MVP award during that time.  Actually, I know why he did not win, but still he was an awesome player.  

Starting in 1994 Belle was one of the best offensive forces in baseball.  People really underestimate his 1994 season when he posted a .357/.438/.714 with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs.  His OPS+ that season was 194, which is one of the Top 100 marks for a season in Major League Baseball.  He could have easily won an MVP, except Frank Thomas....who posted the 26th best season ever, measured by OPS+ with a .353/.487/.729 line with 38 home runs and 101 RBIs.  Is there a wrong answer?  Not really.  

In 1995, Belle posted a 50 home run season, when the number meant something, and also managed to get the hapless Indians franchise to the World Series.  MVP worthy?  Yes, probably so.  Here was the deal with Albert if you are not familiar.....

Really awesome hitter.....

Really not cool.  

So, needless to say a lot of Albert's antics failed to win him popularity contests, but he was really good in his prime.  After he left the Indians he landed with the White Sox for two good years before leaving for the Orioles.  He was still a good player on the Orioles, but a hip problem slowed him down and he ended up retiring after collecting a lot of money for not playing.  His last official season on the field was 2000, but he collected pay checks until 2003.  Which is probably a good reason why most Orioles fans are not big fans of the Albert Belle cards.......

I still like Albert and I like his cards, which is why I picked up this card recently.   This bat card is another early on bat relic card from Upper Deck out of their Black Diamond product.  Back when bat cards and jersey cards were actually pretty tough pulls.  I always really liked these cards, in terms of design, and have been able to find a bunch of them for my collection.  However, unlike some of the early Upper Deck relics some of these can be found dirt cheap depending on the variation of relic you find.  The rarer, and much more expensive versions of the Black Diamond relics, have multiple relic pieces, like this Chipper Jones. 

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