#65 - BO BELINSKY, P
Bo was ranked 78th greatest Angel in our countdown after the 2005 season (LINK) and #71 on our compendium published after the 2008 season.
Legend has it that the greatest sports fans die happy because on their deathbed they are given a chance to relive one season of their favorite team. Having the luxury of living thru the the 2002 Angels World Championship affords me the chance to tell the deathbed Genie "1962 Angels, please" because there was never a funner bunch of Halos worth rooting for. And the ringleader for this wild pack of upstarts who, in early July, were in first place was Robert Belinsky, known by everyone as Bo.
In the Angels record books, Bo Belinksy has not a single milestone in any all-time top ten category. He has two records in the top ten single season club records - for walks (122 in 1962, 9th most by an Angel in one year) and Hit By Pitch (13, also in 1962, fifth most by an Angels pitcher - tied with Shawn Boskie and Jason Grimsley). But he did make a mark on the field. His 296 strikeouts is 36th most by any Angels pitcher and his eleven Complete Games is still in the club's top 30.
His biggest claim to fame between the lines was pitching the first no-hitter in Angels history. On March 5, 1962 in front of the hometown faithful of Los Angeles he walked four Orioles, hit two more, struck out nine and allowed no hits. You can win a lot of bar bets by asking who pitched the first no-hitter at Dodger Stadium. It wasn't Sandy Koufax. It was his fourth straight win against no defeats - his first four decisions in the big leagues. He would start his major league career 5-0.
But add all this up and it still doesn't quite seem like a Top 100 Angel. Bill Singer had one of the greatest pitching seasons in club history, with a greater WAR that year than Bartolo Colon's 2005 Cy Young year and Singer isn't on this countdown. So why is Bo?
Like Donnie Moore, you cannot tell the story of the Angels if you do not tell the story of Bo Belinsky. His 1962 on the field was exciting but his 1962 off the field was historic - both in conquests, ingests and ink spilled on America's gossip pages. When he was drafted off of the Orioles minor leagues by the Angels he immediately held out for more money at the staart of the spring. Once he got to Los Angeels he went right for hte starlets. As his fame grew on the field, he amplified with exploits off the field, dating Ann Margret, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise and Mamie Van Doren. Imagine if Garrett Richards was dating Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and both Olsen twins and also having the best season by a rookie pitcher in the last ten years. It was kind of like that, but in a world without ESPN, Bo was almost the only story of a playboy baseball player.
But all of this did one thing that no other player in Halo history can lay claim to. Bo Belinsky put the Angels on the map. Baseball's first two expansion teams were the Angels and a second version of the Washington Senators (the original left town after 1960 for Minnesota and became the Twins). The Senators never had an identity until Ted WIllliams became their manager in 1970 and then they moved to Dallas and became the Rangers. But the Angels were put on the map and into the consciousness of not only every baseball fan but practically every American. Despite their ups and downs as a franchise, they jumped the hurtle of everyone knowing who they were quite early in their existence, and they did it because one of their own was living the dream.
Even Alan Sherman mentioned him on an album. In the song OH BOY from the 1962 "My Son The Folksinger" album, the comedian simply recited the phrase "Oh Boy" in different intonations to names thrown out by singers - Sherman's take on current events was clear in the variety of ways he said the same phrase. Then the singers reverse and he recites names current int he national news... Check it out:
Chances are many of the references he makes in that song are totally lost on you. At the time they were front page news and audiences got the joke because everyone knew who the famous comedian was talking about. The Bo reference is at the 2:44 Mark, but it is only funny in the context of everyone else named.
A comedian is rhyming "Igor Stravinsky" with the name of a popular baseball player. And the comedian was talking about an Angels player. The player who put the team on the tips of the country's tongue. It was a flash in the pan, but a brilliant flash by a wild man, who left his mark with a legacy off the field that made everyone know there was another team in Southern California. I doubt even all of Arte Moreno's marketing genius could garner for his club what one wild man brought them in the days when John F. Kennedy was president.