#71 - Bo Belinsky, LHP
Robert "Bo" Belinsky died in November of 2001. Today would have been his 72nd birthday.
Bo Belinsky was the first national superstar for the fledgling Los Angeles Angels, bastard sons of Chavez ravine, 2nd team in a one-team town. Belinsky had a magic moment (pitching the first no-hitter in Angel history) that allowed his over-the-top rebel image to capture the imagination of just about every sports reporter and, because of his fearless association with glamorous starlets, every entertainment reporter as well. Well into the 1980s, no anniversary of his no-no could pass without an extensive retelling of his fabled exploits - most of them off the field. He was an Angel great when Angel greats could be counted on one hand.
For many years after they both were long retired, the mere mention of Sandy Koufax would cause a baseball fan to almost bow with reverence, while the mention of Belinsky would elicit at least a cackle of delight, rolling of one's eyes optional. That he was the antithesis of hallowed tradition set up this franchise's iconoclastic inferiority complex that was to last right up until October of 2002. That we could always claim the first no hitter in Dodger Stadium for ourselves gave us the rare bragging rights that pugnacious fans of the underdog hold onto like uncashed winning lottery tickets.
Rob McMillin of the must-read 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog looks back...
A well-known ladies' man (he dated Ann-Margaret, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise, Mamie Van Doren, as well as marrying Playboy centerfold Jo Collins) and a pool shark, Bo Belinsky was the proverbial million-dollar arm with a ten-cent head. Belinsky won his first three major league starts, and pitched the first major league no-hitter on the West Coast against the Orioles. He also frequently couldn't find the plate, leading the league in walks in 1962 with 122, placing third that year in hits allowed per nine innings, and second in hit batters (13).
Belinsky pitched 14 complete games, 11 in an Angels uniform, but alongside his starlet-studded adventures off the field, he was probably best known for one episode that eventually got him traded. A terrible hitter with the bat (he had a .162 average even in his best offensive year, 1962), Belinsky knocked unconscious Los Angeles Times sportswriter Braven Dyer, then 64 years old, following a misunderstanding on a story Dyer didn't even write. The team immediately DFA'd Bolinsky to then-AAA Hawaii, and set out to look for a replacement, finding one in the then-Houston Colt .45s' George Brunet. Belinsky's Angels career ended with a trade to the Phillies for Rudy May -- who would go on to be a mainstay in the Angels' late 60's rotations -- and Costen Shockley, who played only a single year for the Halos.
For his part, Belinsky regretted what happened, stumbling into alcohol dependency after his career ended in 1970, recovering, and working for a Las Vegas car agency. "I came to the Angels as a kid who thought he had been pushed around by life, by minor league baseball," Belinsky said. "I was selfish and immature in a lot of ways, and I tried to cover that up. I went from a major league ballplayer to hanging on to a brown bag under the bridge, but I had my moments and I have my memories. If I had the attitude about life then that I have now, I'd have done a lot of things differently. But you make your rules and you play by them. I knew the bills would come due eventually, and I knew I wouldn't be able to cover them."