Jays great Bell represents Dominican
Fellow countryman Rijo recounts tales of childhood friend
MEXICALI, Mexico -- Former Toronto outfielder George Bell is best known as the first player from the Dominican Republic to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award, but his success in the Caribbean Series is also legendary.
Bell, who along with former pitcher Mario Soto is in Mexico representing the Dominican Republic's baseball delegation, starred in the 1984 and '85 Caribbean Series, combining to hit .435 with three doubles and six home runs in 46 at-bats. He was elected to the Caribbean Series Hall of Fame in 2004.
The tales of Bell's friendships are just as famous.
As one story goes, fellow countryman Jose Rijo, pitching for Oakland at the time, was instructed to nail the hot-hitting Bell with a pitch in a game against the Blue Jays. Rijo refused because Bell was a childhood friend. It was Bell who taught a young Rijo how to drive a car when they were kids.
So Rijo pitched to Bell. Bell hit a home run.
"It's a true story," said Bell. "I hit a home run and they took him out of the game."
According to baseballreference.com, Bell hit a two-run home run off Rijo in the seventh inning on Aug. 30, 1987. Bell hit another home run in the eighth inning off Dennis Lamp and finished the game 3-for-5 with four RBIs in the 13-3 victory.
In 427 career at-bats against Oakland, Bell posted a .267 batting average with 61 RBIs.
Bell also hit .348 with three doubles and five RBIs for his career against his Rijo. The right-hander struck him out only once.
At the end of the 1987 season, Bell was named the AL MVP.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.