Once He Was an Angel

March 28, 1994
March 28, 1994

Table of Contents
March 28, 1994

NCAA Tournament
Figure Skating
Dave Andreychuk
Kenny Anderson
NCAA Championship People
SI 40th Anniversary
Point After

Once He Was an Angel

In this SI Classic from March 1972, bon vivant Bo Belinsky muses on the pitching promise he wasted, and the fun he had doing it

"My career?" he says with a shrug. "It was no big thing. I could never get the knack of what they wanted of me." He takes a delicate sip from a tall glass and continues. "Oh, I might have had a career if they could have tied me to the mast. You know, like Ulysses? When he heard the Sirens' song, he was bewitched." He raises the glass of vodka and ice to his car and shakes it gently until the cubes tinkle. "You know, Babe, I always seemed headed for the rocks." He smiles self-mockingly. It is the smile of a man who has such slight regard for himself that he can smile, not at his pun, which is almost cruelly close to the mark, but at the man who can make such a pun.

This is an article from the March 28, 1994 issue Original Layout

There is a photograph of Robert (Bo) Belinsky in the May 16, 1962, edition of The Sporting News. In it a slick-looking young man in a California Angel uniform is surrounded by a number of aging baseball dignitaries and club executives. The older men are dressed in business suits. They are smiling stiffly at the camera, while Belinsky, his head cocked to the left, one eyebrow raised, is smiling that slightly ironic, distrustful smile of his at the baseball he is holding up for view. With it he has just recorded his fourth straight major league victory and the first no-hit, no-run game in history by a rookie lefthanded pitcher. That no-hitter would make Belinsky, at the age of 25, a celebrated athletic personality. He would be seen in the seasons that followed with such Hollywood beauties as Ann-Margret and Mamie Van Doren, and he eventually would marry Jo Collins, a Playboy Playmate of the Year. He would become a protègè of Hugh Hefner, Walter Winchell, Frank Sinatra and J. Edgar Hoover. Of the last mentioned, he would say to the press, "J. Edgar? Man, he's a swinger! He let me shoot tommy guns at FBI headquarters. I told him if I ever quit this game, I might need a job. He said, 'Bo, there'll always be a place for you on the force.' "

Belinsky would be considered for the lead of a television series featuring a motorcycle loner named Buddy Solo and, with Mamie Van Doren's encouragement, he would appear in a Las Vegas nightclub act. Of Belinsky, Mamie would say, "I've got better curves, but he's got such a fine voice. I know, because he sings to me in his car."

Belinsky would be dogged and quoted voluminously by sports-writers, who recognized him as a unique and colorful personality, someone who could be counted on for outrageous quips, such as: "If I'd known I was gonna pitch a no-hitter today, I would have gotten a haircut." Or, "My only regret is that I can't sit in the stands and watch myself pitch." Or, "My philosophy of life? That's easy. If music be the food of love, by all means let the band play on."

In short, within days after his no-hitter, Belinsky, a former pool hustler from Trenton, N.J., would be heralded as sport's most original and engaging playboy-athlete. His name would become synonymous with a lifestyle that was cool and slick and dazzling, one that was to be a trademark of those athletes who appeared later in the '60s—Joe Namath, Ken Harrelson, Derek Sanderson. But, in time, the name Belinsky would mean something else. It would become synonymous with dissipated talent.

Bo Belinsky won only 24 major league baseball games in the nine years following that rookie no-hitter. He lost 51 times. He made the rounds, playing for six major league clubs, and was fined, suspended and banished to the minors regularly for what came to be viewed as his unstable and childish behavior. The reporters who had written adoringly of the rakish winner became less than adoring of Belinsky the loser.

"There is a race to Bo Belinsky's pad every morning," reported one. "It is a race to see who arrives there first, Belinsky or his milkman. Belinsky has yet to win." Another wrote, "The Angels are about to market a new Bo Belinsky doll. You wind it up and it plays all night, all morning and three innings in the afternoon."

Belinsky was picked up for questioning at five o'clock one morning when a female companion complained that he had beaten her in his "lipstick red" Cadillac on Sunset Strip. The Angels fined him, and the girl sued. On another morning at three o'clock Belinsky was accused of punching a sportswriter in his hotel room. This time he was suspended from the club and exiled to the minor leagues, but he refused to report. On still another morning, again at five o'clock, the hotel in which Belinsky and his teammates were staying caught fire. As the players assembled sleepily in the streets, the manager began to count heads. "My God!" he screamed. "He's not here! He must be inside." At that moment Belinsky stepped from a cab, as he put it, "reeking of broads and booze." When asked about the incident later, Belinsky told reporters, "Boys, you know you're going good when you beat a bed check and your hotel burns down." His record at the time was 1-5. That evening he pitched again and lost.

In the end, events so turned on Belinsky that he broke his engagement to Mamie Van Doren. "I'm returning his ring," she told reporters. "I'm afraid if I don't, he'll cut off my finger and take it—or worse, make me take over the payments." Looking back, Belinsky says, "Mamie's a good broad. I still think she's got a little class—very little."

Despite the growing disenchantment with his behavior, Belinsky seemed undaunted. He denied that his acts were those of an unstable man. "I feel I'm very stable," he said at the time, "proof of which is that I'm still single. Only unstable guys get married." Shortly thereafter, he married Jo Collins. The marriage endured until one night when Belinsky plucked a $500 wig from his wife's head and threw it onto Sunset Strip.

A few months after his 30th birthday—and four years before he would retire unnoticed from baseball—Belinsky began realizing that his future was no longer promising. He was struggling toward a 3-9 record with the Houston Astros. His career had collapsed, he believed, under the weight of too many fines, suspensions, trades and banishments to the minors—not to mention the weight of his own personality. Each setback seemed to have been visited upon him just as he was about to reach his peak. At 30 there were no more peaks in sight. He knew that the public, which once had found him an entertaining young man, had grown increasingly weary and annoyed with what it felt was his unstable and self-destructive behavior. As an aging and unsuccessful playboy, Belinsky had become a parody of himself. When asked how he felt about being 30, he replied with a smile, "It's no fun knowing that in every home in America your birthday is celebrated as a day of infamy." An exaggeration certainly, a delusion of grandeur perhaps, for it is doubtful that anyone in America, including Belinsky, had celebrated the birthday at all.

However, the remark was telling. It was characteristically cute. It seemed to have been delivered more for its effect than its truth by a man more concerned with style than substance. It was tossed off, discarded really, with that ironic smile of disavowal—as if it were nothing but the surplus from a warehouse of such remarks, remarks he must unload whenever he felt the occasion deserved not truth but wit. Yet the annoying suspicion remained that Belinsky felt the remark contained more truth than wit. Whether this feeling was nothing more than the overblown self-pity of a too shallow man or the heightened perception of a too sensitive man was not clear. It was certain only that Belinsky had dissipated a promising career, that people had grown tired of him, and that most of his difficulty could be traced to his personality. He did not have the knack of later athletes—the Namaths, Harrelsons and Sandersons—of cultivating his personality precisely up to, but not beyond, that point at which the public becomes bored with it.

Belinsky is now 35. He leans forward in his armchair to better examine the picture of himself holding that no-hit baseball 10 years ago. With the tips of his lingers he displaces a lock of hair from his forehead. It is an exquisite, almost delicate gesture done in slow motion. His hair is black. He wears it long and shaggy rather than slicked back and gleaming as he did when the photograph was made. He remains darkly handsome, although his skin is no longer tight and sleek. There are lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth. He is wearing a cream-colored bathing suit with Bo embroidered in script on the left leg. Despite added flesh spilling over at the waist, despite the tiny stubble of beard and the lines and the look of aging, somehow Belinsky looks better than he did 10 years before. He looks truer, more substantial, as if the lines and added pounds had forced upon him dimensions and substance he did not have then, and which he had not consciously cultivated since. He seems less slick, less glossy, less conscious of his external self. He no longer possesses that pampered, satisfied look that gave one the impression that if you tried to grab hold of him, your hands would slip off from the grease.

After his no-hitter his mother told reporters that her son worked out every day in a gym. "Bo just loves his body," she said. Today, a hot summer morning six months after his retirement, Belinsky no longer exercises. As is his custom, he will do nothing more strenuous than sit for hours in the living room of this spacious ranch home tucked high into the Hollywood Hills overlooking Los Angeles. Possibly, he will work out his horoscope. He is a Sagittarius. ("A very flexible sign in the universe," he says. "A Sag gets along with everyone.") But it makes little difference what his day's horoscope suggests (a long hike in the mountains?); his routine will not vary. He will sit until noon in the shallow of the chimney, centered in the living room, so as to best avoid the sunlight pouring through the sliding glass doors to his left. He will sip steadily from the glass on the coffee table beside his armchair and, to amuse himself, perhaps watch a morning quiz show, or just gaze at the many paintings, poems, artifacts and photographs that hang on the walls. Most of the photographs are of his friends, some in cowboy suits, with drawn guns and pixie smiles. Belinsky will pass the time in small talk with those same friends, who drift in and out of this room over which he, the orchestrator of the day's unfolding, presides.

It is nine in the morning, and the room is occupied by seven or eight people in various states of sprawl. All are strangely quiet, self-contained, as if this huge room were a universe and each person in it a planet, spinning in an orbit entirely his or her own. Most of them, including Belinsky, have yet to sleep after last night's party, which concluded only minutes ago.

On the other side of the coffee table sits a pudgy, gray-haired man in his 50's, his face buried in his hands. He is wearing striped bell-bottoms and no shirt. His name is Phil. He works for a company that makes locks and burglar alarms. He is moaning softly. Beside him, folded like a jack-knife on the couch, is a tall, slender girl in a flowered bikini. Bonnie is 18. Her chin is resting on her raised knee so she can best paint her toenails. She is totally absorbed, though occasionally she will look up, wide-eyed, and blow a kiss in Belinsky's direction. He will smile back. ("A stray," he says. "I found her last night on the Strip. She wants to stay.")

Another girl in a bikini moves slowly about the room, collecting glasses, emptying ashtrays, dusting. Linda has pale blue eyes, bright red hair and, at 30, a fleshy but attractive body. ("Linda's a good chickie," says Bo. "She's got her share of patches.")

Standing in front of a mirror is a lean man in his late 30's. He has fine, straight features, unblinking eyes, a long ponytail and gray muttonchops. He is studiously fluffing out his sideburns with one hand; with the other he adjusts the cartridge belt slung over one shoulder. His name is Chris. He is a prophet. Every afternoon at lunchtime he walks down to Schwab's drugstore, climbs onto a soapbox and preaches to the passersby. Today he will warn the crowds that if they continue to worship material things, they will never perceive the spiritual. "Dead things are for blind people," he will say. And then, "The jackals of hell will lick your blood from the streets." Later he will walk back to the house, prepare an organic lunch for himself and his dog and watch The Dating Game on television. (Of Chris, Bo says, "He's all right. A little freaky, maybe, but aren't we all? He's got his little act, so what? Everybody's got a little act.")

Alongside the glass sliding doors that overlook a tear-shaped swimming pool one story below, a skinny man in a white bathing suit sleeps on another couch. This is Lennie, the owner of the house. Lying there, Lennie is making it difficult for a painter to reach the wall behind the couch. The painter has been working on the same wall for six days. Often he pauses and glances down at the swimming pool where two girls are sunning themselves, both lying on their backs and wearing only the bottoms of their bikinis.

Belinsky puts down the picture of himself and sits back in his chair. "What was I thinking then? I was thinking, Man, a no-hitter, that's nice! I wonder what happens next? I mean, a no-hitter, it's nice but it's no big thing." He picks up his glass, takes a sip and returns it to the table. "Sure, I would have liked to have had a career after that. But I never thought I would. I knew there was always someone waiting around the corner to take a shot at me. Besides, there's no way I could have lived my life differently. Can a leopard change his spots? You can shave all the fur off the poor beast, and he's still got his spots, right? Who can explain it? Why does a mad dog howl at the moon? Why did I do the things I did?" He smiles and drains his glass. He motions with it toward the redhead. "Heh, Babe, some more Wheaties?"

Linda looks up from her dusting. "Sure, Bo." She moves to his chair and bends to take his glass. Her breasts strain against the top of her bikini. She walks off toward the bar in a languid shuffle. Belinsky follows her with his eyes, shakes his head and says, "So many broads, man, so many broads. It's a shame.... What are those lines, 'Give me 10 stouthearted men, and soon I'll have 10,000 more.' Well, make mine chickies." He laughs. He slides down into his chair, only the top of his head visible, and he laughs. When his laughter fades, he is still smiling to himself.

"My problem was simple, Babe," he says, staring straight ahead. "I heard music nobody else heard. I remember once in the Texas League when the team bus stopped in Veracruz so we could eat. All the players went into the restaurant except me. I thought I heard music down the street, so I went looking for it. I found a two-piece jazz band playing on the sidewalk in front of a bar. I listened for a while, and when they went inside, I followed them. I had a few drinks and then left. I had every intention of returning to that bus until I ran into another jazz band. I followed them into a bar, too. What I didn't know was that all these bars hired jazz bands to lure customers inside. Man, after that bar, it seemed like every step I took there were these buglers waiting for me. I woke up six days later in a hotel room in Acapulco. I had a sponsor. This blonde Mexican—she had to be blonde, right!—was sitting by the bed saying, 'Belinsky! Belinsky! I make you great yanqui bullfighter! But first we must change your name.' I said, 'Sure, Babe, we'll change it to Lance. Lance Belinsky, how's that?' My team? By that time it was in Mexico City. We had gone in different directions. It was always like that with me."

By now it is 10 o'clock. The sun has begun to move from behind the chimney. It floods through the glass doors. Belinsky raises a hand to shade his eyes. With the other he searches across the coffee table for his sunglasses. When he finds them, he puts them on. "That's better," he says.

"I don't feel sorry for myself. I knew sooner or later I'd have to pay the piper. You can't beat the piper, Babe; I never thought I could. But I'll tell you who I do feel sorry for—all those guys who never heard music." Again he falls back into his chair, laughing.

The doorbell rings. It is the telephone repairman. Linda leads him to the glass doors and points down at the swimming pool. The telephone repairman stares for a very long moment. "How did they get in the swimming Pool?" he says. Linda shrugs. "There was a call for Lloyd Bridges," she says, handing Belinsky his drink.

"A call for Lloyd Bridges?" Bo repeats. "That's trippy, Babe. That's real trippy." He takes his glass and raises it before his eyes. "To amnesia."

The telephone man has found the sockets from which the telephones were removed. He looks over his shoulder and declares, "The phones were ripped out of the wall."

Belinsky glances at him and says, "Is that a fact, Babe? Ripped out, huh?" He shakes his head in disbelief. It was Belinsky who had removed the telephones from the wall hours before. When he had come home from the all-night party, he had been met at the door by Phil, who told him he'd been kept awake answering calls from friends of Bo's. "A new arrangement must be worked out," said Phil. Belinsky replied, "Sure, Babe," and walked over to the telephones, ripped them from the sockets and threw them through the sliding glass doors (which, fortunately, had been opened) into the swimming pool. The phones are there still, perfectly upright, receivers on hooks, coils winding along the pool floor and terminating abruptly in a spray of exposed wires.

It was not, however, Belinsky's disagreement with Phil that precipitated the outburst. Its seeds had been sown earlier in the evening. Belinsky and four male friends had been making their usual rounds of Sunset Strip nightclubs. They had stopped at the Sports Page, a hangout for professional athletes, and then gone on to The Candy Store, a Beverly Hills discotheque frequented by Hollywood celebrities. At both places Belinsky's party was virtually ignored. It was seated at darkened tables far removed from the action. Belinsky went unrecognized except for two isolated incidents. At the Sports Page, he was approached by a potbellied man who wanted him to play on his Sunday-morning softball team. "A great way to stay in shape," said the man. "We have free beer after the game." At The Candy Store, Belinsky was approached by a gray-haired man dressed entirely in white, like Tom Mix, who said he was a movie producer and wanted to film Belinsky's life. "I have just the title," said Belinsky. "We'll call it A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Career." The man in white said, "That's good, Bo. That's very, very good. Maybe you can play yourself. Can you act?"

"Have I got an act!" said Belinsky.

Near midnight, just as they were leaving The Candy Store, Belinsky noticed a man with chalky white skin, wearing a purple-velvet jump suit, leaning against a wall. "Catch his act," said Bo. "He's doing a line imitation of Hugh Hefner." Suddenly Belinsky realized it was Hefner and, after a few words of greeting, Bo and friends were invited to Hefner's Beverly Hills mansion.

"I'm bored tonight," said Hefner, as he led Belinsky, Lennie and the rest of the group to his Mercedes limousine. "Barbie's in the hospital, and I could use some company."

The party that followed at the million-dollar Elizabethan castle did not go well at all. The scene contused and bothered Belinsky. Hefner began by leading a tour of his possessions. When he had shown his guests all he felt they should see, he ushered them into the living room, where servants had spread out a snack of caviar, strawberries and melon, assorted cheeses and hors d'oeuvres and bottles of champagne. He was teasing Belinsky's friends and his other guests with his opulent way of life. Belinsky noticed the men, their quick hustlers' minds clicking into gear, searching for a way, as Bo put it later, "to hitch a ride on that big bunny bird in the sky." The guests began talking loudly about "deals" and "scores" they could make with proper backing. The women, urged on by boyfriends, whispered in Hefner's ear about "deals" of their own, about "scores" they had in mind.

Hefner, all the while, watched the scene impassively, sitting on the floor Indian-style on a velvet pillow. He did not say more than a dozen words and seemed content, perhaps even amused, to watch the ardent strivings of those about him. Belinsky followed the proceedings with increasing anger. He grew sullen and began to drink heavily. At dawn, Hefner stood up suddenly, thanked everyone for coming and left. The guests looked dazedly at one another. Half-drunk, unsure of what was expected of them, they rose unsteadily and wandered from the house into the chill and foggy morning.

When Belinsky returned to the house in Hollywood Hills, Phil met him at the door and complained about the constantly ringing telephones. "What followed," said Lennie with a grin, "was a typical Polack rage."

"Going to Hefner's house was no big thing for me," Belinsky is saying. "I've known the guy for years. I never much liked that Playboy philosophy. I mean, you don't use women, Babe, you complement them. They complement you. How can you use a woman? But still, Hef's a gracious host. I wanted my friends to enjoy themselves. It was a score for them, something they could talk about for a week. Instead, they tried to hock his silverware.

"I met my wife through Hef. She's one reason I quit baseball. I've got this thing going with her, a divorce action. It's no big thing, but it started to get me down. I haven't done much these past months except try to get amnesia." He raises his glass. "But it was my fault. I split when she said she wanted to be a Bunny Den Mother at the Playboy Club in Denver. How's that, trippy? A Bunny Mother? What would that make me, a Bunny Daddy?

"My wife wasn't the only reason I quit," he continues. "You could say I no longer heard the Tunes of Glory. I never liked baseball that much—at first, anyway. I only signed a contract to get out of Trenton. I was hustling pool and hanging around with bad people. At the time $185 a month and a ticket to some witches' monastery in Pancakesville, Georgia, didn't look bad. I quit baseball a number of times over the years, but for one reason or another I always went back. I almost quit in the spring of 1962. The Angels wanted me to sign a standard rookie contract, and I refused. Then a few months later I pitched the no-hitter. The rest is history. I threatened to quit a few times after that no-hitter, like when they tried to ship me to the minors for hitting that sportswriter. I felt disconnected, so I threatened to quit. But that was just a bluff. There was no way I could quit. I had learned to love the game by then.

"That's funny, isn't it, Babe? Me, the guy everybody said didn't love the game enough. Ha! I ended up devoting 15 years of my life to baseball. Man, I loved it. I just didn't take it seriously. I mean, Babe, I don't take myself seriously, how could I be expected to take a game seriously? It's a little boys' game. To play it you've got to be a little boy at heart. The problem is some of these jocks take it too seriously. They let the game define them. They become, say, a great hitter, and they begin to think of themselves as great in ways that have nothing to do with their baseball talent. I never let any game define me. I was serious when I pitched, but once off that mound I defined myself. I tried to live my life the way I wanted, with a little style, a little creativity. In the long run it wore me down, physically and mentally. Not the playing around but lighting those guys who misunderstood me. They said I was bad for the game. Managers were always trying to straighten me out. They'd call me into their office and try to read my act. You know, 'Come on, kid, what seems to be bothering you? You can tell me, I'm on your side.' And when I opened up, when I stood there with my insides hanging out, they buttoned themselves up. The next day I'd get shipped to the minors again.

"It was then I realized this wasn't a man's game. Men chased broads and got drunk and were straight with you. They don't have an act. They aren't hypocrites. For example, when I was going with Mamie, they called me into the office over and over and told me she was no good for me. Finally, when I wouldn't listen, they shipped me to Hawaii. And while I'm there, I get a call from Mamie telling me that the same front-office people who shipped me out were bothering her all the while I was gone. If only I didn't see all that, I would have been all right. But I had this third eye, and when I saw things that I shouldn't have, I overreacted. Usually it was in a way that made no sense, like getting drunk. Maybe I see things out of proportion, or things that aren't even there. Maybe I just don't know how to express what I feel. Who knows? You tell me, Babe. You're my doctor. I always felt the front office and manager and players should be one big family. They shouldn't take sides against each other. Man, you live part of your lives with these people. In a sense, they are your family. The owner should be like a father to you, take care of you, protect you. Take my last year at Cincinnati [1970]. Everybody knew I was on the way out. So why didn't they start me one game, just one last game? Why couldn't they let me go out in style instead of letting me rot on the bench?"

Bonnie, who has finished her toenails, stands up and yawns. She looks down at her toes and wiggles them. "How do they look, Bo?" she says. Belinsky looks at her, openmouthed, stunned. "What, Babe?"

"My toes, Bo! How do they look?"

Belinsky says wearily, "Babe, they look really beautiful."

Bonnie, satisfied, looks around the room, sighs and says, "Bo, there's nothing to do. I'm bored."

"Why don't you read a book, Babe?"

"Oh, Bo, I can't stay still long enough to read a book. Maybe I should go swimming."

"Sure, Babe, that's it." Bonnie walks out of the room, her hands contorted behind her back, unhooking the top of her bikini.

He sinks back into his chair and begins cracking his knuckles. He is staring straight ahead again. His eyes pass through and beyond a picture of Lennie in a full-faced beard. The photo is superimposed over a poem that reads: "The drafter has vanished/The dreamer, with age, has gone blind." Belinsky turns suddenly, and the room is reflected in miniature in his dark glasses. "You know, I played 15 years of baseball and never made a dime off it. I wasn't that interested in success, that's why. I loved the game, Babe, not success. Do you think Seaver or Harrelson play the game because they love it? You bet they don't. They love what it brings them, Babe. I could never give up enough of myself for success. Len Shecter talked to me about a baseball book long before he ever sniffed out Jim Bouton. I told him I wasn't interested. I couldn't rat on guys I'd played with. That's not my style. I was the last of baseball's true sportsmen. I never stashed baseball. You know what I mean? Stash! Stash! Stash!"

He stands up and thrusts his hand down his leg as if into his pants pocket. He repeats the gesture again and again while saying, "You can't stash sport. Those other guys talk about sport and they mean business, they mean something they can stash in their pockets. Man, you can't stash baseball. If you're lucky, you capture it awhile, you go through it at some point in your life, and then it goes away and you go on to something else. Some guys try to live off it forever. It's a sin to live off sport."

Belinsky sits down. He is trying to compose himself. Then he says softly, "I mean, baseball is a beautiful thing. It's clean. It stays the same. It's an equalizer. It moves slowly in a time when everything around us is rushing like mad. It's a...gee, what am I trying to's a breath of fresh air blowing across the country. Don't laugh. I mean it! Listen, during World War II when those Japanese kamikaze pilots Hew down the smokestacks of our ships, do you know what they screamed? '—— Babe Ruth!' That's right. Not —— Knute Rockne or Bronko Nagurski, but Babe Ruth! That's the way I feel about the game, even today. I just never knew how to express myself properly, that's all. I loved the game, but I loved it my way, not the way people told me I should love it. I have a debt to baseball. It kept me straight. Who knows what I might have been without it? Baseball was the one big thing in my life—if my life contained any big thing. My running around with broads, that was just passing time. It was baseball that mattered. I mean, sport keeps you clean, but only for a while. In the long run it isn't even sport that matters, it's you. You've got to know when to get off, or else you start handing out too many transfers."

Belinsky reaches down for his glass, picks it up, then, without taking a sip, returns it to the table. "Take this house," he says with a sweep of his arm. "I'm just a guest here. No matter where I've been or who I've been with, I've always been just a guest. I like it that way. I'm like camouflage. I blend in anywhere—but not for too long. Pretty soon I think I'll head for the islands. If I stand around here too long, I'll kill the grass. That's the way I've set up my life. I don't want to take root anywhere. You hear about good soil here or there and you're curious, but really you're afraid to find it. I mean, Babe, you take root, you give your trust to someone, and it's bound to fall apart. I don't want to be around when things fall apart. I'm more spiritual than people think. I don't do malice to anyone. I don't like to see people hurt. When I sense things are falling apart—I have this radar—I snap alert, and then I'm gone.

"Follow the sun, Babe, that's it, I follow the sun. I hate it, this way I am. But who chooses to be what he is, huh? It's in the stars, Babe, in the stars. I would like to be devoted to some one or thing.... I just never found anything I could lend myself to. The age of chivalry is dead, Babe. There are no more heroes." He smiles and stands up. "Nothing left worthy of devotion, know what I mean? That's why my way is best. Don't forget, 'He who plays and runs away, lives to play some other day.' "

He throws his head back and laughs that self-mocking, distrustful laugh of his. Then he holds up his empty glass and says, "Excuse me, Babe. I need more Wheaties. Besides, this conversation is getting a little heavy. Too heavy." He moves with a long, graceful stride, his body shifting delicately from side to side, his weight slightly forward on the balls of his feet; and yet he moves so lightly, ever so lightly, a man on hot coals, a cat about to flee, leaving not the slightest indentation on this thick carpet over which he passes.

TWO PHOTOSDON CRAVENSPHOTOAPBo's idea of training was to dance all night with Mamie.PHOTODON CRAVENSAnn-Margret was one of many starlets in Bo's universe.PHOTOHY PESKINBo made news with the first no-hitter by a rookie lefty.

This is one of 40 classic Sports Illustrated stories to be presented during 1994 as a special bonus to our readers in celebration of SI's 40th anniversary.

"My only regret" Belinsky once said, "is that I can't sit in the stands and watch myself pitch."
"I don't feel sorry for myself. I knew sooner or later I'd have to pay the piper. You can't beat the piper, Babe."