"My image hasn't been too good," Bell concedes. "It mainly comes from Boston." In 1985 he charged Red Sox pitcher Bruce Kison after Kison threw at Ernie Whitt's head and hit Bell. "Maybe I haven't helped myself by not talking to the media very much," he says. Actually Bell talks, but he seems to enjoy promoting his image as a tough guy. After the last game of the Yankee series, he told several radio reporters that he didn't give interviews then proceeded to ramble on for 10 minutes.
"George is maybe the toughest, most intimidating player in the league," says Yankee broadcaster Ken Harrelson. "That image helps him because pitchers are afraid of him." He is also close to being the best player in the league, as his recent club records (11 homers and 31 RBIs in May) attest.
"He's the voice and soul of this team," says Cerutti. Indeed, on buses and in the clubhouse, it is Bell who makes everyone laugh. Says Leach, "Having a locker next to George is like being next to David Letterman." Bell left 38 passes at the box office each night in New York. So it may have been one of Bell's compatriots who on Wednesday hung a Dominican flag over an outfield railing. When security guards removed it, touching off a small hassle, Bell—one of Toronto's four Dominican players—had a laugh in left-field. During the '85 playoffs he was reported to have said that umpires don't like Canadians or Dominicans. Bell claimed he was misquoted and quit talking to the press for a while.
"Most of George's problems are in the past," says coach Cito Gaston. "He plays hard because he hates to lose. But off the field he's a different person." The people in his famous baseball hometown of San Pedro de Macoris are prime beneficiaries of his generosity. "I love San Pedro and I owe it a lot," says Bell.
When the Blue Jays flew off to Baltimore, Piniella was left to answer a million questions in the Bronx. "Our starting pitching is out of whack right now," he said. "We don't have Henderson and Mattingly, which is like Toronto being without Bell and Barfield. We're going to be all right. No one's panicking."
But was Steinbrenner listening to Billy Martin, who wants to get out of the broadcast booth and back into the manager's job? Was the owner really going to administer lie-detector tests to determine the truth about Mattingly's injury? Was he going to make more trades?
What does all this mean, Lou?
"It means," said Piniella, "that Toronto is really good, and that if we're going to win, we have to beat them. But I said that in March."