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Belle On Vina: He Was Only Following Orders

September 4, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ When Albert Belle flattened Fernando Vina in the basepath May 31, he was carrying out the orders of Cleveland Indians first base coach Dave Nelson, HBO reports in its next edition of ``Real Sports.″

In a special edition of ``Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel″ devoted entirely to filmmaker Spike Lee’s interview with Belle, Nelson reveals that he had chewed out Belle for failing to do the same thing to Vina earlier in the game.

``I definitely had no intentions of trying to hurt him or end his career or knock him out for the rest of the season,″ Belle told Lee, breaking his silence on the controversial hit he put on the Milwaukee second baseman.

The show will air Tuesday night and four more times during the following 10 days. The show is the third for HBO by Lee, who also did pieces on Mike Tyson and John Thompson for the premium cable network.

The first collision between Belle and Vina occurred in the third inning of the game at Milwaukee with Belle on first base. Vina fielded a grounder, charged Belle for the tag, then threw to first for the double play after Belle bumped him lightly.

``Had I known that he was going to charge me like that, I would have run him over,″ Belle said.

Nelson said he had just finished telling Belle to be sure to break up any double play attempts.

``Now it’s three outs,″ Nelson said, ``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.‴

In the eighth inning, after Belle was hit by a pitch, virtually the same thing happened, only this time, Belle smashed Vina to the ground. Belle was out, but there was no double play. Although shaken up, Vina was not seriously injured.

``I was going to make sure the next time it happens I wasn’t going to be as lenient,″ Belle said. ``From the way the collision looked, everybody thought I’d tried to hit him across the nose and break his nose and that I’d tried to take a cheap shot at him.

``But if you watch it over and over again in slow motion, you’ll see where I hit him and broke up the double play.″

Belle was suspended for two games and fined $25,000 by the American League for the incident.

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