Saturday, April 17, 2004
Bo Belinsky: Ladies Man Supreme by Tim Hinely
I guess the closest thing we have to a ladies man these days is New York Yankees party boy Derek Jeter, which is pretty sad when you think about it (Jeter’s a dick) but no one, and I mean no one, talked the talk and walked the walk like Robert “Bo” Belinsky.
Bo was born in New York City on December 7th, 1936 but raised in Trenton, New Jersey. He made his major league debut on April 18th, 1962, but other than pitching a no-hitter in his rookie year of 1962, Belinsky had a rather unimpressive major league career. He played for five teams in his eight-year career and his career record was 28-51. His best year was that first year when he went 10-11, hardly the numbers of a Hall of Famer, but this guy was a legend for a different reason. Ol’ Bo could have any woman he wanted—and usually did. Did this make his teammates envious? Hell yes, but Bo didn’t care. In fact, there wasn’t much he did care about save for getting some tail at the end of the night.
In the early 1960’s baseball moved out to California and one of the upstart teams was the Los Angeles Angels, which started up in 1961. Bo’s career began the following year and, as legend has it, he held out for more money in his rookie year (Imagine that! The balls on this kid!) and got $8500 instead of the $6000 they initially offered him. This got the folks in la-la land talking about Bo Belinsky.
By today’s standards, a guy like Bo Belinsky would have women protesting his every game. But back then he could get away with comments like, “I think whores got a lot more class than some straight broads. You know where you stand with them” and “I have one rule about broads, they gotta come highly recommended.” Other pitchers, like Sandy Koufax to name one, had oodles more talent but didn’t get the kinds of headlines that Bo did merely because they didn’t drive a flashy candy-apple red Cadillac Eldorado or party all night at such L.A. hotspots like the Whiskey a Go-Go. Bo had the good looks and the attitude, that, “ I don’t give a shit” attitude that, for some odd reason, acts as a magnet for some women.
And the women—there were lots of them: Gilligan’s Island cutie Ginger, otherwise known as Tina Louise (Bo said, “Great body, great legs…hell of a broad”), Ann-Margaret (“She wasn’t quite as good looking or as sexy in person as she was on screen”), Connie Stevens (“Great girl but I wound up dating her 19-year-old cousin”), and many others like Juliet Prowse, Doris Duke and Paulette Goddard. But his best known romance was with Hollywood cheesecake pin-up/post Marilyn Monroe bottle-blond Mamie Van Doren. Hollywood gossip columnist Walter Winchell set them up and they actually hit it off. Legend has it that a sportswriter was interviewing Bo in his hotel room one day while Mamie sat next to them, naked, on the bed (“Greatest interview I ever had” remarked the scribe). They ended up getting engaged and Bo even got her a ring but when reality set in he got cold feet and called it all off. After more headlines and public fighting Bo got his $2000 ring back. And while they did get engaged on and off several more times, but they never did get married. In the end Bo made the comment, “I needed her like Custer needed Indians.” (Mamie later dated two other baseball players: Tony Conigliaro and Lee Meyers.)
Bo did eventually get married to Jo Collins, the former Playboy Playmate of the Year (1965) but the marriage was rocky at best. Bo cheated on Jo every chance he got and then got arrested for threatening her with a gun. He then very nearly killed both of them by crashing his car into a telephone pole and they ended up getting divorced a few years later.
Eventually Bo was sent to the minors in Hawaii. He loved it so much he moved there following his retirement in 1970, and then he faded away. One thing that kept him in the public’s mind was sportswriter Maury Allen’s book, Bo: Pitching and Wooing. In one chapter Allen asked Bo to reveal his secret to pitching that no hitter in his fourth major league game and Bo said, “The night before my no-hitter I bumped into this secretary out on the Strip. She was tall and thin and black haired so we wound up having a couple of drinks and I ended up making it with her at her pad...and I didn’t get home until 4:00 am. After having the no-hitter I tried finding her again and never did. She was my good luck charm so when I lost her I lost all of my pitching luck.”
In the end Hawaii ended up being a good and bad thing for Bo, as he got off booze and drugs (good) and ended up becoming a born again Christian (not good). Still, the thing that always sticks with me about Bo Belinsky is the comment he made once to former teammate Albie Pearson when Albie asked him what he wanted from life and Bo replied, “To live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse.”
Tim Hinely loves the Pittsburgh Pirates and lives in Portland, Oregon. He has been publishing his own zine, Dagger, for several years now. Send him $3.50 to see a copy to: PO Box 820102 Portland, OR 97282-1102 or write at: firstname.lastname@example.org.