- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos owes a lot to W.C. Roentgen.

How much? How about the large fortune he has already made, the enormous fortune he is about to make and, finally, the small fortune he has just saved?

Who is W.C. Roentgen? The man who discovered X-rays. He should be Angelos' patron saint because nobody in history may have made more money from X-rays than the Orioles owner.

He reportedly earned more than $300 million as his share for litigating thousands of cases for workers who suffered lung disease from working with asbestos.

He could earn anywhere between $500 million and $1 billion as his share for being the state of Maryland's lawyer in its $4 billion tobacco settlement, depending on how the state Court of Appeals rules on the dispute between Angelos and the state over his fee.

And somewhere, there is an X-ray of Albert Belle's right hip that is part of the evidence that will kick in the insurance coverage that will save the owner 70 percent of the remaining $39 million Angelos still owes Belle in the final three years of his contract otherwise known as "the Mistake."

They should rename Camden Yards "Roentgen Field."

That X-ray, along with a host of other medical evidence and Belle's pathetic performance this spring, gave Angelos the eraser he needed to get rid of perhaps his greatest mistake as an owner. More than two years ago, in a panic move when he believed the New York Yankees were about to sign Belle (a bluff, mind you), he signed the slugger to a five-year, $65 million contract.

He never got the results that Belle had brought to the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox as the greatest run producer of the decade but did get all the bad baggage Belle promised he was leaving behind the lousy attitude and boorish behavior that constantly embarrassed the franchise. He cursed out the fans at Camden Yards and made obscene gestures at them, to the point where Angelos called one season ticket holder who complained of Belle's antics and arranged for him and his family to see a game in the owner's box.

This is one of the few athletes who is actually worse than his reputation. Did you know that while the Orioles were at Jacobs Field for one series last year, Belle trashed the visitor's clubhouse around his locker so much that the Orioles were given a bill by the Indians for the damage? He trashed locker rooms and equipment in New York and Tampa as well. The list is nearly endless of childish, maniacal behavior, far beyond the well-documented incidents of throwing balls at fans and photographers and running over Halloween pranksters.

Belle deserves none of our sympathy or our praise, and what is particularly galling is the idea that we should judge him solely on his baseball performances as if that qualifies someone from resigning from the human race.

Those who are singing his praises now should be embarrassed because they know better, and that particularly includes Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, who has been covering for Belle so long since taking the Indians managing job in 1991 that it has become second nature. "He may have done some things over the course of his career that people didn't like and didn't agree with," Hargrove told reporters. "But they can't say that Albert didn't try to give his best in every at-bat."

Who is he kidding? Maybe they can't say it with a straight face.

Hargrove sent Belle home in 1988 while managing in Class A Kinston for failing to hustle. Two weeks later the Indians assigned Belle to a lower Class A team, which he refused to report to, and he didn't play the rest of the season. Hargrove was managing in Cleveland when Belle was sent down to the club's Class AAA club in June 1991 after failing to run out a ground ball a routine scene at Camden Yards. He took up a spot on the 1998 American League All-Star team, then arrived at the game in Cleveland and refused to play. And though Hargrove wasn't in Baltimore in 1998, Belle embarrassed the Orioles internationally when the Cuban team came to Camden Yards to play when he refused to take the bat off his shoulders while at the plate.

Give his best in every at-bat? As Ralph Kramden would said, "Har har har de har har."

What lies ahead now for Belle? Maybe he has a future in cyberspace. He had his own Web site, though most people believe Terry Belle, Albert's brother and imaginary friend, wrote the content for it. He would sometimes offer financial advice and even political observations, so maybe there is a future for the Belle boys in one of those fields.

Maybe they could resurface in baseball again in the front office. After all, Albert (snicker) once proposed that Terry could be a general manager when the Orioles were looking for one.

Or maybe Albert will become an Internet gambling tout. Remember, he once testified in a civil lawsuit deposition that he lost $40,000 gambling on pro football and college basketball. A federal prosecutor said he believed it was closer to $400,000.

OK, maybe he wouldn't be a very good gambling tout.

Is there a Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Belle's future? Doubtful, but it would be entertaining to attend the first ceremony in the history of Cooperstown in which the inductee would be booed, followed by the inductee firing baseballs at the crowd.

Goodbye Norman Bates.


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