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Thursday, April 25
Updated: April 26, 9:42 AM ET
Vizquel in book: 'I don't care what Albert thinks' news services

CLEVELAND -- Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel did not invite former teammate Albert Belle to lunch Wednesday to celebrate the release of his autobiography, "Omar! My Life On And Off The Field."

Smart move. Belle, debilitating hip injury and all, might have popped his cork, so to speak.

According to a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Vizquel's autobiography, co-authored by Bob Dyer, is a non-controversial read -- save Chapter 10: "Albert and Other Clubhouse Characters." Vizquel opens the chapter by stating, "I didn't hate Albert Belle. But he was certainly a difficult guy to like."

The snippet, published in Thursday's editions of the Plain Dealer, served as literary salsa for the supreme nachos to come, when Vizquel addresses "Batgate," the infamous episode at Comiskey Park in July 1994 in which Belle had the legality of his bat challenged by White Sox manager Gene Lamont. Vizquel describes the buzz in the dugout as umpire Dave Phillips removed the bat from play:

"Guys were saying, 'Oh my God! The bat is corked!' My response was, 'What?' I felt a little bit like the way I felt when I first heard the true identity of the Tooth Fairy.

"I can be naive at times, but I'm not stupid. Certainly not stupid enough to steal Albert's corked bat and replace it with one that looked completely different -- one that was autographed by Paul Sorrento. That wasn't even a nice try.

"The problem, of course, was that all of Albert's bats were corked."

Whoa, Omar! One more time with that last sentence, for full effect, recognizing that the emphasis on all came from the author:

"The problem, of course, was that all of Albert's bats were corked."

Athletes' autobiographies don't get much better than that.

In the weeks and years after Batgate, as more and more details surfaced, it was generally accepted around local watering holes and dinner tables, according to the Plain Dealer story, that Belle swung a corked bat that day -- and others. What makes this particular account such a zinger is the source and scope. For a high-profile player to call out another high-profile player with such a blanket, damning statement on the record just doesn't happen every day.

At Wednesday's gathering, which doubled as his 35th birthday party, Vizquel stood by his allegation that Belle once was 100 percent genuine cork.

"I don't care what Albert thinks," Vizquel said, smiling his trademark smile.

Dyer, an award-winning writer for the Akron Beacon Journal, said: "If Albert were still playing, and he was on first with one out and somebody hit a grounder to second, I think Omar might have thought twice about including the part about the cork."

The book is published by Gray and Company, a local Cleveland-area publisher.

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