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Stories, Quotes and Player Profiles
Page 43
"I knew when my career was over. In 1965 my baseball card came out with no picture."
-- Bob Uecker
Full name: Robert Belinsky
Born: December 7, 1936 (New York, NY)
Died: November 23, 2001 (Las Vegas, NV)
ML Debut: April 18, 1962
Final Game: May 18, 1970
Bats: Left   Throws: Left
6'2"   191
Played for Los Angeles Angels (1962-64), Philadelphia Phillies (1965-66), Houston Astros (1967), Pittsburgh Pirates (1969), Cincinnati Reds (1970)
[O]n and off the field, the most noted hurler of all on the 1962 [Los Angeles] Angels was southpaw Bo Belinsky.
Probably no major leaguer has received more publicity for doing less than the screwballer Belinsky. By the time he had finished an eight-year career that included lengthy stays in the minors and on the disabled list, he had won a mere 28 games, arriving at double figures only in his rookie year and even then losing more than winning. Just once, in 1964 when he was 9-8, did he stack up more victories than losses. In 1962, however, Belinsky burst on a stodgy baseball scene with a reputation as a womanizer, pool hustler, and all-around bon vivant, and promptly added value to all these pastimes by racking up his first five decisions; one of the wins was a May 5 no-hitter against Baltimore, the organization from which the Angels had drafted the lefty and that had rejected a bid from California to take him back after an unimpressive showing in spring training. Thanks in part to his media-intense surroundings in Los Angeles and in part to aging Hearst columnist Walter Winchell's doting on him as a perfect partner for doubledating actresses the newsman wanted to impress, Belinsky was soon as much of a regular feature in gossip columns as he was on sports pages. With no attempt to disguise his nocturnal roamings, he was linked at one time or another with Iran's Queen Soraya and actresses Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens, and Tina Louise. The lengthiest relationship of all was with actress Mamie Van Doren, whose regular presence at Dodger Stadium* in low-cut outfits out-Hollywooded the Hollywood atmosphere surrounding the Dodgers and did nothing to hurt the Angels gate. For a while, the team also tolerated increasing coverage being given to Belinsky's rowdy influence on other Angels, particularly pitching ace [Dean] Chance, who by his own admission rarely skipped the all-night parties, night club shows, and pool games that attracted his roommate.
The party started to peter out when, after going 6-1 in his first seven decisions, Belinsky hit a wild streak (he led the AL in walks in 1962) and went 4-10 for the rest of the year. {Manager Bill] Rigney, who had disliked the pitcher's style from the beginning and who had tried in vain to persuade [Fred] Haney to send him back to Baltimore during spring training, appeared to have more success when he urged the general manager to use Belinsky as bait in ongoing trade talks with Kansas City for reliever Dan Osinski. A's president Charlie Finley agreed to accept Belinsky as "a player to be named alter" after the season in exchange for Osinski. But then A's manager Hank Bauer, who was either very careless or very nimble about evading a problem he didn't want, let Belinsky know he was the player-to-be-named later. The pitcher, who had no desire to leave Los Angeles for Kansas City, waited until the team arrived in New York for a game against the Yankees and, assured of maximum media coverage, announced that he knew all about the deal between Haney and Finley and that he was going anwhere; moreover, he challenged both the commissioner's office and the AL to look into a situation where a player who was already traded might have been representing the league in the World Series. The ploy worked. Commissioner [Ford] Frick threw the hot potato to the American League, and AL president Joe Cronin passed it on to Finley and Haney behind a warning that everyone's interests might best be served by replacing Belinsky in the deal. An infuriated Haney persuaded the A's to accept lefty Ted Bowsfield as a substitute.
About the only members of the organization not ambivalent about Belinsky were Rigney, who didn't want him around, and Chance, who very much did. Haney and Autry, in particular, changed their minds whenever Rigney announced a new fine against the hurler for missing a curfew, then changed them back again whenever his appearance on the mound or in a newspaper photograph boosted gate receipts .... Then in late May, Rigney again appeared to have prevailed when Belinsky's 1-7 record (with an ERA approaching six) argued convincingly for a stay back in the minors. Because the Angels' chief farm club was in Hawaii, however, Belinsky had no problem accepting the demotion, to the point that he resisted a recall to Los Angeles in August. With tales of his Hawaiian adventures added to those in California, the southpaw actually received a $2,000 raise for the 1964 season despite an overall performance of 2-9, with a 5.75 ERA. To some degree, the incentive paid off because Belinsky responded with his only winning season. But the 1964 campaign also featured a punchup with Los Angeles Times sportswriter Braven Dyer, after which there was a perceptible change in the media coverage of Belinsky's antics. He was dealt to the Phillies over the winter for Rudy May and, under increasing drinking and arm problems, started wandering around the National League from Philadelphia to Houston to Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. After failing in an attempt to catch on with St. Louis in 1971, he called it quits.
--Dewey & Acocella
Total Ballclubs

*The Angels played in Dodger Stadium for four of their first five seasons as part of an agreement with Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley indemnifying the latter for giving up exclusive rights to the Los Angeles area. -- Ed.
IMAGE: Bo Belinsky with actress Mamie Van Doren.
 Total Ballclubs, Donald Dewey & Nicholas Acocella
Copyright 2005 by SPORT Media Publishing, Inc.
Published by SPORT Media Publishing, Inc. (Toronto), 2005

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