A surehanded third baseman with enough range to play shortstop
when needed, Buddy Bell won six straight Gold Gloves and led
AL third basemen five times in total chances per game, three
times each in putouts and assists, and twice each in double plays
and fielding. By the time Buddy had retired as a player, he and his
father Gus held the all-time father-son record for hits (4,337) and
also tied for the second-best father-son total in homers with 407. All three of his sons have played pro ball, but through the 1999 season only one -- David -- had made the majors.
Breaking in with the Indians in 1972 when Graig Nettles had third
base locked up, Bell played outfield most of the season and was
named to the Baseball Digest Rookie All-Star Team. Nettles was
traded in the off-season, and in 1973 Bell showed himself to be
among the league's best third baseman, leading in putouts and
double plays. A clutch hitter and smart baserunner, he also had a
good batting eye. The Indians traded Bell to Texas in December
1978 for Toby Harrah, and Bell responded with his best year to
that point, hitting .299 with 18 HR, 101 RBI, and a league-leading
16 game-winning RBI, winning his first Gold Glove. His line-drive
hitting eventually carried him to rank first among all-time Rangers
in career doubles, RBI, extra-base hits, and total bases.
A lackluster start in 1985, combined with the presence of prospect
Steve Buechele, prompted Bell's trade to the Reds on July 19. The
Cincinnati native filled a long-standing void at third. By joining the
Reds, Bell gave the club five active members of the 2,000-hit club
(with Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Dave Concepcion, and Cesar Cedeno). After weathering a lengthy adjustment to NL pitching
and rumors that he was finished, Bell starred for the Reds in 1986
and '87, leading NL third basemen in fielding in '87. After starting
1988 on the disabled list, he soon lost his job to star rookie Chris Sabo and was traded to the Astros in June. (During his short stint in Houston, Bell wore his customary #25, even though it would soon be retired in honor of longtime Astro Jose Cruz.) Bell returned to the
Rangers as a free agent after the season and was projected as
their DH, but injuries and a first-half slump prompted him to retire.
Bell didn’t stay out of baseball for long, however. After working in
the minor league programs of the Indians and White Sox, Bell
accepted a position as infield coach of the Indians in 1994. Even
though he’d never before managed a game at the pro level, the
Detroit Tigers hired him after the 1995 season to replace the
legendary Sparky Anderson. However, the success that Bell had
enjoyed as a player didn’t follow him into the dugout during his
first year at the helm, as the Tigers won only 53 games and lost
109, finishing 39 games behind the Yankees in the cellar of the AL
East. In 1997 Bell was allowed to keep his job and the team
improved to third place in the division with a 79-82 campaign.
However, the Tigers dropped some key players to reduce payroll in 1998 and Bell -- upset with GM Randy Smith and demanding a better situation from the Tigers -- fell victim from his team's mediocrity. Replaced on September 1 by Larry Parrish (Detroit's record stood at a disappointing 52-85) Bell caught on in the Reds front office, where it was widely assumed that he'd eventually replace Jack McKeon as manager. But in October 1999, he left to manage the Colorado Rockies after his old friend Dan O'Dowd (whom he'd worked with in Cleveland) was named GM. Replacing the retiring Jim Leyland, Bell was so confident he'd succeed in Denver that he decided to move West from his long-time Cincinnati home.
Bell suffered from seizures during his early years in the majors, and decided to seek medical help after he fell out of a golf cart and broke his nose in 1976. (Despite vision problems and exhaustion, he played the night and doubled in his first at-bat.) Doctors initally thought a brain tumor might have caused the collapse, but later diagnosed him as epileptic; thanks to medication, he has never had a seizure on the field. (ME/JGR)
»May 3, 1995: David Bell makes his ML debut at 3B in the Indians 14–7 win over the Tigers. His appearance makes the Bells -- with his father Buddy Bell and his grandfather Gus Bell -- the second three-generation family in ML history (the Boones are the first). Gus Bell will pass away in four days.
»May 25, 1998: Cleveland 2B David Bell becomes the 3rd player in major league history to play against a team managed by his father. Bell's 2–run double brings home the go–ahead run in the Indians 7–4 win over Buddy Bell's Detroit Tigers. Bump Wills and Moises Alou are the only other players to appear in games against their fathers.
»July 20, 2000: The Astros defeat the Reds, 6-2. Cincinnati pinch-hitter Mike Bell strikes out in his major league debut, making history be becoming part of the first third-generation family to play for the same major league team. His grandfather, Gus Bell, and father, Buddy Bell, also played for the Reds.