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Bell’s Homer Drought Ends, but He Won’t Talk About It

Times Staff Writer

After opening day, George Bell’s projected home-run total for the 1988 season was 486.

Five weeks later, it had “slipped” to 23.

No one expected the Toronto slugger to hit triple figures in the home-run category--even after he belted three against Kansas City in the first game of the season--but then nobody figured he would go 23 games without hitting at least one, either.

Bell ended the longest homer drought of his major league career Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium with a towering fourth-inning shot to left. He also had a two-run triple in the fifth as the Blue Jays beat the Angels, 9-4.

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Bell hasn’t exactly been in a slump, though. In his last 11 games, he’s hitting .326 with seven multiple-hit performances. He has 40 hits already, and that projects to 228 for the season.

“George Bell is just a great hitter who happens to have power,” Manager Jimy Williams said. “Mainly, he’s a great hitter.

“Was I concerned that he hadn’t hit a homer in a month? No. You (writers) apparently were. I wasn’t.”

Bell, who was more than a little displeased when the Blue Jays decided to move him from left field to designated hitter, has only been Toronto’s DH seven times this season. The rest of the time--Friday night included--he was back at home in left.

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When it comes to opposing pitchers--and his own club’s management--Bell usually has his way.

Bell, from San Pedro de Marcoris in the Dominican Republic, came into the big leagues with a chip on his shoulder about the size of a Louisville Slugger. He has long contended that he has been discriminated against because he’s Latin. But he seems to have mellowed slightly this year after winning the American League’s most valuable player award (decided by a vote of the baseball writers) after hitting .308 with 47 homers and 134 RBIs last season.

He may have been relieved for the homer drought’s end, but then we’ll never know for sure.

“Sorry, can’t say anything about the game,” he said afterward. “Don’t ask. Nada. Nothing.

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“Let’s talk about anything else, but not baseball. Let’s talk about all the beautiful girls in California, but no baseball. I want to enjoy this night for myself. Maybe we can talk some other time. How about the next time we’re in town?”

Well, George, chances are no one will care much about Saturday night’s game on July 18 . . . unless, of course, he doesn’t hit another home run in between.

As it was, his solo shot in the fourth was almost caught by Angel left fielder Johnny Ray. The ball traveled about 800 feet, but Ray didn’t have to leave the stadium and by a ticket for a bleacher seat to get his glove within a few inches of the ball, though he might have had enough time to do just that if he’d thought of it. The ball landed about 375 feet from home plate after soaring toward the rim of the stadium like a space launch before returning to earth just beyond Ray’s reach.

Ray thought he had a chance to extend Bell’s drought, but he might have grown tired waiting for the ball to descend. Bell must have had his doubts, too. He was watching the ball so intently that he fell down rounding first base.

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Ray had plenty of time to time his jump and he went up and reached over the fence, but the ball eluded his glove. So Bell got up, dusted himself off and tried to remember the correct pace for his home-run trot.

The home run cut the Angels’ lead to 2-1, but the Blue Jays broke the game open with a four-run fifth inning and Bell drove in the last two runs when his fly ball down the right-field line hopped away from Chili Davis. While Davis chased the ball into foul territory, Tony Fernandez loped home from second and Lloyd Moseby raced home from first.

Bell got his third hit in the ninth and it might have been the hardest hit ball of the night. With Alexis Infante on first and Moseby on second and one out, Bell jumped on a pitch from reliever Donnie Moore. His line-drive single to left got to Ray in such a hurry that even the speedy Moseby had no chance of scoring.

So Bell rang up a three-hit evening and raised his 1988 homer total to five in the process. But that doesn’t mean he was in the mood to talk baseball.

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But if you want to know about the girls in California, he’s ready to chat.


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