on March 25, 2008
The great thing about reading a baseball biography written before "Ball Four", is that while many things are written about, much is left to the readers imagination.
Bo Belinsky was one of the great off the field baseball characters, and his story, played out in early 1960's until he left baseball in the early 1970's is a raucous, rollicking,irrepressable tale of mediocre pitching, surrounded by tabloid celebrity.
Belinsky was best known as a journeyman pitcher whose talent never met with his promise. The author of a no-hitter for the California Angels in 1964, he was pursued by and squired Hollywood starlets, celebrities and beautiful women in an endless string during his stay in California.
As he struggled in his pitching career, every pitfall had a silver lining. While banished to play in Latin America, he finds himself in the middle of an old-fashioned banana republic shootout. As he dives to safety and turns over tables in a cafe to avoid flying bullets, he discovers a beautiful woman under the next table, and two glasses of Champagne that are sitting half-full. The book leaves what happens next mostly to our imagination, but graphically so.
As he becomes more suspect than prospect, he is sent to the minors, but plays two seasons in Hawaii.
The beginning of the story is hilarious, with his mother describing how he got his nickname, Bo.
For anyone who loves baseball, and wants to read about someone other than a superstar, this is a must.
on May 7, 2011
The year was 1973. I was 14, entering Redwood High School near San Francisco. I read Bo: Pitching and Wooing by Maury Allen. Today, almost 40 years later, this is a book I absolutely consider to be one of the five best sports books ever written, and the genesis of my own writing career. What a long, strange trip it's been.
Reading Pitching and Wooing occurred simultaneously with my befriending Brad Cole. Brad grew up in the Los Angeles area but moved to Marin County when his folks were divorced. San Franciscans despise everything about L.A. I never bought this garbage. I was a huge USC Trojans fan, thought the music of The Beach Boys to be a siren song, and was fascinated with Los Angeles. Brad painted a glorious portrait of life in the Southland: beautiful girls at the beach, packed throngs at Dodger Stadium, the glories of Jim Murray and the Los Angeles Times. I could practically taste the Dodger Dogs. This came as I read Pitching and Wooing, which probably painted a nostalgic picture of the Sunset Strip, circa 1962, more thoroughly than any other writer with the possible exception of another Bo Belinsky biographer, Pat Jordan ("Once he Was An Angel," Sports Illustrated, 1972).
Between Brad's tales and Maury's book I was transplanted to the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, a swank Sinatra Hollywoodland of gorgeous babves, hot nights, happening night clubs, and exciting baseball. Everything that made life worth living at that time. For a lonely only-child without a semblance of a girlfriend, it was a vicarious thrill so . . . thrilling . . . that it in some ways was almost better than actual real life. Writing cannot be better than that.
I read it many times, memorized it. I was a heckuva good baseball player and figured some day I would play professionally. To me, Bo: Pitching and Wooing, Ball Four, and Jordan's seminal A False Spring, were primers on pro baseball and minor league life. I knew what I would find when I got there.
Fast forward to 1981 when indeed I did sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, minor league life was exactly like that panted by Maury Allen, Pat Jordan and Jim Bouton. I lived it to the hilt. Hedonistic pleasures, girlies in small town Southern bars, fun, fun, fun. No, I was not living within The Word of Christ. I was a sinner. I was a child who had not yet put away, as Paul wrote to the Cornthians, "childish things."
That would come eventually. First, there was Bo Belinksy, the next step.
Aftrer baseball, I graduated from USC, served in the Army, attended law school, and became a sports agent. I was unfulfilled. It was 1994. Being a sports agent seemed almost like being a pimp. I spent most of my time arranging for my client, a married Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder, to meet his mistress flown in, by our firm, to various Nationbal League cities. I knew I was not doing God's work.
Then Bo Belisnky entered my life, in real life. We started representing him, an old-time player popular in card shows and the memorabilia market. We made no money off Bo but it was fun to have him around and hear all his stories.
Bo started bragging about how "Marty and Bobby" and Oliver Stn and this agent and that producer wanted to make a movie about his life. A light went on in my head.
"I shall write the screenplay," I declared, and I did.
This was basically like stirring up a hornet's nest, a Hollywood story for a different day. Staying on point, I contacted Maury Allen and Pat Jordan., Amazingly, both completely cooperated with me, allowing me to write a screenplay based on their two books about Bo's life without charging me, telling me if it ever gets made we would work out the particulars then. Unbelievable.
So I wrote a script called Once He Was an Angel. It was optioned by a producing group associated with Frank Capra III and Frank Capra Jr., and received kudos in a screenwriting contest. Maury Povich wanted to make a movie about Bo. But Bo passed away in 2001 and the movie was never made.
The best news was that Bo, the wild playboy of the 1960s, became a Christian, in large part because of his ex-teammate Albie Pearson, a preacher. He earned his wings in the end. Thsi happened as I, too, turned from my sins and became a Christian.
I owe a huge debt to Maury Allen. When I wrote that screenplay with his help, it got me out of the immoral world of sports agency representation, and turned mne into a writer, my life's passion. Screenplays in Hollywood, 1994-99. Prep sportswriter, L.A. Times, 1999-2000. Magazine and San Franciscio Examiner columnist, 1999-2001. Author, 18 books, 2002-2011. Not bad. It started with Bo: Pitching and Wooing.
When I wrote Angels Essential (2007), an Angels history, I devoted a large part of the book to Bo and my experiences. Later Bob Case, the Angels' clubhouse boy in 1962 and a lifelong friend of Bo's and many Angels, told me of all Angels chroniclers, I captured the ambience of the times better than any other writer. Nice words, but I was only paying homage to Maury Allen and Pat Jordan.
Bo: Pitching and Wooing was not a huge best seller. It did not approach Ball Four, which came out a few yers earlier and probably inspired it (the tell-all sports tome). Bo said he made about 30 grand out of it, but he exaggerated a lot. Nevertheless, as far as I am concerned it stands the test of time as a sports book of monumental greatness. It is simply one of the most entertaining, engaging, fanciful adventures ever committed to the page. Read it now and you will agree.
on November 3, 2014
Bo was a dear friend of mine and we had some wonderful times together here in Vegas...He was a man's man and the kindest person I ever met.....I first met Bo at a charity golf tournament here in Vegas, I remember looking at the name's on the golf cart to see who my partner was....it read Belinsky/Hollingsworth and I had always been a big fan of Bo but had never met him......I remember walking around the cart about five times and talking to myself out loud "Bo Belinsky", "could it be da Bo Belinsky," and with out warning Bo appears out of nowhere and say's "that be me".............that was the start of a long, wonderful friendship.......Bo was always very open about his life, highs, lows & really lows..... after we finished the front nine, the other two guys and myself had heard the most amazingly, insane stories that we had ever heard in our lives...as we were ready to tee off on #10 I ask Bo a question that someone had to ask, "Bo if you had it to do over again would you change anything, do it differently!" I remember Bo with a very serous, concerned look on his face, looking the three of us straight in the eye and saying, "that's a great question that I have often thought about, the answer is YES I would do it differently..................."the next time around.....................................................I WOULD DO IT SIDEWAYS.".....Bo Belinsky was one of a kind, and it was my honor to have know him.........there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss him.....