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BO BELINSKY excerpt from ANGELS ESSENTIAL
THE AUTHOR WROTE A SCREENPLAY ABOUT BO BELINSKY IN THE 1990S

FALLEN ANGEL

 

If his off-season activities were any indication, this hope looked to be more of a “pipe dream.” Bo spent the winter performing in a Vegas lounge act surrounded by young lovelies dressed in skin-tight “baseball suits.” He did screen tests for movies, which according to every Hollywood agent and producer were in the offing. Plans were made for him to star in a Western which he dubbed “The Last Shoot-Out at Bo’s Corral.”

            Spring Training got off to a . . . rough start when Belinsky met up with a “companion” in Palm Springs. They retired to his hotel room, where they ordered a full array of room service hors d’ouvres and champagne, all charged to the ball club. They then started to “go after it hammer and tongs,” until somebody’s feet knocked over the tray, causing bottles and dishes to fall in a crashing of broken glass.

            The next day they tiptoed around the crash scene, the girl departing and Bo headed to the ballpark. A maid discovered the broken glass and informed the hotel manager, who contacted Haney.

            “Don’t tell me who,” said Haney.

            “Yes,” the manager said, “It’s him again.”

            A fine ensued. 1963 was a bad year. The team’s veterans got old fast. The fast ‘n’ loose style of the Angels caught up with them. Bo was 1-7 when the team sent him to the minor leagues.

            Salt Lake City? Albuquerque? Omaha?

            No. Honolulu.

            “It was the best place of my career,” Bo said. “Hawaii’s better than a lot of big league towns. I’dve been happy to play my whole career there. It was relaxing for me, it got me out of that whole Hollywood scene. I pitched great there, and I’ve never seen so many beautiful girls in my life.”

            Belinsky did pitch well in Hawaii; well enough to earn a promotion back to Los Angeles, which of course got him right back into the limelight of publicity, Hollywood and all those starlets.

            One of those starlets was the actress Mamie Van Doren, a blonde bombshell who at the time was being groomed by the movie industry into becoming the “next” Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Stardom eluded Mamie, but she and Bo became a major item. She knew Bo was great publicity for her career. The two became inseparable items around town, their images splashed all over the trade papers.

            Eventually, Mamie told Bud Furillo that they were engaged. Furillo ensured that the headlines were the same size as “FIDEL DEAD,” but it was all news to Bo. Pressured, he bought Mamie a big rock, but they immediately began to argue and the engagement was called off. Relieved of the pressure, the romance bloomed again, but neither one was faithful to the other, so they decided to call it quits before hurting each other further.

            Bo wanted the ring back but Mamie refused, until Bo hired a private dick who presented evidence that she was not exactly lonely.

            “Mamie’s got a little class,” Bo told the media. “Very little.”

            In 1964, Dean Chance put together one of those seasons that happens every so often. Like Ron Guidry in 1978 and Orel Hershiser in 1988, Chance caught fire and could not be hit. His sidekick, Belinsky, seemed to pick up Dean’s momentum. In the first four and a half months of the season it seemed that, finally, their collective potential had been reached.

            Bo continued to party. His success on the field had little to do with his off-field “success.” By this point he was a personality separate from his baseball persona. Every bar owner, every actress and model, every socialite, wanted him to be a part of the scene, and he obliged. Somehow, he seemed in ’64 to have managed a way to compartmentalize this life with the demands of a baseball career.

            He was only 9-8 in August, but as his 2.87 earned run average demonstrated, he pitched great ball, the victim of brutal offensive support from an Angel club that had lost all their offensive firepower from the magical “Summer of ’62.”

            Thanks to Bo and Dean, the team was still popular. Sandy Koufax was out for the season with an injury. Without him the Dodgers fell by the wayside, giving their junior tenants a unique chance to grab some serious market share in the “City of Angels.”

            Looking back to that August, it seems the events which transpired that month changed the very nature of the franchise. An age came to an end, replaced by a strange twist of fate, a change in the very character of the club. They would move to a new stadium in the suburbs, and suffer varied misfortunes. In the mythological sense, it almost seems that had an unfortunate, easily avoidable incident at Washington’s Shoreham Hotel not happened, the “Camelot” nature of the Angels might have been allowed to live on.

            On August 13, 1964, Belinsky lost a game at Dodger Stadium. He was the victim of poor defense, and after the game Associated Press reporter Charlie Maher found him to be discouraged and distraught over his performance. He was having a season worthy of a 20-game winner but without better support he was more likely to be a .500 pitcher. It was a crucial point in his career, and telling of the “new Bo.” He now took the game seriously, had a chance to make some real money at it, and did not want to let the opportunity of a lifetime – heretofore a fantasy in his mind – slip away.

            Bo poured his heart out to Maher, who wrote a national story quoting the southpaw as depressed over his team’s poor play behind him, unhappy with his own performance, and contemplating retirement. Maher pointed out that Bo’s words needed to be taken with a grain of salt, coming on the heels of an emotional defeat in the “dog days” of August, but it all made coast-to-coast headlines.

            The Angels and the press corps covering them boarded a plan owned by the Dodgers, which they rented for road trips. A nine-hour flight to Washington, D.C. ensued. One of those writers was Braven Dyer, the 60-year old dean of the L.A. sporting scene.

            Dyer, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times, had seen it all. His vivid descriptions of the “Trojan Wars” with Notre Dame and in the Rose Bowl elevated Southern California football into the realm of myth and lore. He was of a time past, and never took to the likes of Bo Belinsky, who in his mind was a playboy of dubious character, holding out for money he did not deserve; a recalcitrant who failed to realize how lucky he was.

            Dyer could pull a cork, and by the time the plane arrived in muggy D.C., he was snookered. The players, on the other hand, were kept to a two-drink limit. At 1:30 in the morning on a hot night the players dispersed to their rooms. There were no women waiting for Bo. Still operating on West Coast jet lag, he and Chance decided they were hungry, taking in a late meal at the Black Steer.

            At three A.M. they dragged themselves in for the night.  Teammate Jimmy Piersall told Bo, “Dyer’s looking for you.”

            Dyer had gotten ahold of an East Coast paper with Maher’s story, quoting Bo about retirement. Fueled by drink, Dyer felt that Bo “owed” him the exclusive “retirement” story, not the Associated Press.

            The phone rang when they got to their hotel room. It was Dyer, who according to Bo immediately started swearing. A shouting match followed. Bo threatened to “put your face in the toilet” if Dyer came near him. Dyer allegedly declaring that he was going to come to Bo’s room to give him the opportunity.  

             Chance was taking a bath when Dyer arrived, after having taken his coat off, putting it on the doorknob of the next room and knocking on Bo’s door despite a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on it.

            Dyer stormed in. Bo tried to mollify the old man, who told him, “Go ahead, tough guy, let’s see you put me on my ass, let’s see you.”

            With Dyer on him chest-to-chest, Bo threw a glass of water on Dyer to “sober him up and make him leave.” According to Bo, Dyer reached into Bo’s attaché case, pulled out a bottle of hair tonic and swung it at Bo, grazing him in the face. Bo flattened him with a left hook. Dyer claimed it was Bo who called him, and denied he ever swung hair tonic at him.

            Dyer fell back, hitting his head on the wall. Blood spurted from his ear and he was unconscious. Chance thought he was dead, until they heard Dyer snoring. They called Angels’ trainer Freddie Frederico, who called Rigney.

            Frederico immediately thought Dyer was dying of a fractured eardrum, but he was not hurt seriously, just cut. Rigney arrived and did not believe word one of Bo’s – or Dean’s – stories. The papers got hold of it and it was big news, complete with photos of old man Dyer in bandages. The public assumed the worst; an old man beaten up by Bo Belinsky.

            “Dyer had it in for Bo,” said Maury Allen. “He was a crusty, nasty, aggressive person, and he was jealous of him. Bo avoids people like that. You had to ‘get’ Bo.”

 

TRIVIA

 

The Angel players were once invited to Eddie Fischer’s birthday party at the Coconut Grove. Where was the Coconut Grove?

 

A: It was located in the Ambassador Hotel, located in the mid-Wilshire District. It was the most famous of the old style L.A. clubs, a hangout for actors, musicians, mobsters and politicians in the tradition of New York’s Copacabana. Richard Nixon celebrated his Congressional and Senatorial victories there. In 1968 Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan at the Ambassador. It eventually closed and was torn down. 

 

DID YOU KNOW . . .

 

That the Angels and Dodgers were not the only teams to share a stadium? The Yankees and Giants both played in the Polo Grounds before Yankee Stadium was built. The Yankees also played at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. Other teams that shared stadiums included the A’s and Phillies in Philadelphia; and the Braves and Red Sox in Boston.

 

1960s All-Angels Team

 

P Dean Chance

P Andy Messersmith

P Ken McBride

P Jim McGlothlin

RP Minnie Rojas

C Buck Rodgers

1B Don Mincher

2B Bobby Knoop

3B Aurelio Rodriguez

SS Jim Fregosi

OF Leon “Daddy Wags” Wagner

OF Albie Pearson

OF Rick Reichardt

MGR Bill Rigney