May 31, 1996 Albert Belle Flattens Fernando Vina to Break Up Double Play
Albert Belle was a prolific slugger with undoubtable anger issues. From cursing out rep0orters to chasing kids with his truck on Halloween and smashing the clubhouse thermostat there are numerous anecdotes of his wrath. However, the highlight that is most often used to make the point in retrospectives may be more nuanced than most people remember.
The Indians were in the middle of a weekend series in Milwaukee. Dennis Martinez was matched up with the Brewers’ Ben McDonald. With one out in the top of the second, Manny Ramirez smacked a line drive home run deep down the left field left field line, scoring Jim Thome.
In the top of the third, after adding a run on an RBI single, Albert Belle was on first when Eddie Murray came to the plate. He hit a grounder that Fernando Vina fielded between first and second. Vina almost casually tagged Belle in the baseline and completed the double play by throwing Murray out at first.
First base coach Davey Nelson had just told Belle to look out for the double play ball. After the play, Nelson was incensed. In a later interview with Spike Lee on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel Nelson recounted, “`Now it’s three outs. So Albert’s standing out on the infield, and I go out there … and I said, `Dammit Albert, what did I tell you?′ I said … `You cost us a … run, and you should have took the guy out.‴
After Milwaukee pieced together four hits and took advantage of a throwing error in the bottom of the 3rd, the score was tied 3-3.
The Indians began to pull away, scoring once in the 4th and 5th. The Tribe then took advantage of two Brewer errors in the bottom of the 7th, extending the inning and eventually pushing four runs across the plate.
In the top of the 8th, Marshall Boze hit Belle with a pitch to lead off the Inning. After Jim Thome struck out, Belle was once again on first base with Eddie Murray at the plate. Murray bounced an almost identical grounder to Vina at second base. Vina turned to tag Belle and was met with a forearm shiver that sent him sprawling to the dirt. Murray was safe at first. Murray later scored the Indians 10th run on an RBI single by Tony Pena.
Back in the dugout, Belle said something to Indians reliever Julian Tavarez, reportedly telling him to throw at a Milwaukee batter. Tavarez’s first pitch in the ninth went about five feet behind Brewers’ catcher Mike Matheny. The benches emptied and the brawl was on.
Once the dust cleared, Indians reliever Jim Poole secured the final three outs and the 10-4 victory. Later, in the Spike Lee interview, Albert Belle reflected on the play, “`I was going to make sure the next time it happens I wasn’t going to be as lenient.”