Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.
BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Bo Belinsky intentionally hit Hank Aaron after Aaron hit his 400th home run off of Belinsky, with Belinsky tipping his hat to the slugger both times.
In 1962, Bo Belinsky was 25 years old, a rookie in the Major Leagues and pitching for the second-year Los Angeles Angels.
Belinsky won his first five games of the season, setting an Angels rookie record that stood until Jered Weaver won his first nine games in 2006.
But no Belinsky victory was as famous as his fourth game of the 1962 season, when Belinsky threw a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles – the very team that had left Belinsky available to be drafted away in the 1961 Rule V Draft!
So, as you might imagine, things were flying high for Belinsky – a young man with great fame and success, living in Los Angeles in the early 60s – what a life!
Belinsky dated a bevy of beauties, including Gilligan’s Island’s Tina Louise…
and was even engaged to blonde bombshell, Mamie Van Doran…
before ultimately marrying the 1965 Playmate of the Year, Jo Collins, in 1970…
But by then, Belinsky’s career was already in shambles, known more for his wasted talent than for anything else.
After his 5-0 start in 1962, Belinsky finished the season 10-11. In 1963, he pitched so poorly he was actually sent back to the minors for an extended stay before he rebounded with a strong 1964 on the field. Off the field, though, an altercation with veteran Los Angeles Times sportswriter Braven Dyer led to a suspension and later a trade to the Philadelphia Philles in the offseason.
After pitching nearly two seasons for the Phillies, Belinsky then pitched for the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds before his career finished in 1970 at the age of 33.
The fun-loving and flamboyant Belinsky was still very interesting to the media (and to his credit, he became very good at handling the media), and in 1973, venerable baseball writer Maury Allen wrote a biography of Bo, Bo: Pitching and Wooing, which detailed all of Belinsky’s various exploits in great detail.
One story, in particular, stood out to me.
Here it is:
I’ll get in the Hall of Fame because I gave up some big home runs to some big guys. I think of that now with a guy like Hank Aaron. He’s driving on Babe Ruth’s 714 and I gave him number 400. He came around the bases and I tipped my hat to him and he smiled. The next time I faced him I drilled him in the ribs. I tipped my hat to him again.
That’s a great story, isn’t it?
It really captures the rapscallion nature of Belinsky to a tee.
But is it true?
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