Bo and Dean: The Swingin’ Slingers of the 1962 Angels

I’m going to tell you the story of two ballplayers and best friends. Neither are in the Hall of Fame, but for a short time their unlikely friendship and nightlife hijinks made the city of Los Angeles forget about Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and root for Bo Belinsky and Dean Chance.

From their background to personality, the duo were as different as could be. The left-handed Bo Belinsky was born in New York City and grew up in the inter-city slums of Trenton, New Jersey. Right-handed Dean Chance was born on an idyllic 166-acre dairy farm in rural Ohio. Bo had to fight his way through his neighborhood; his prowess with his fists earning him the nickname “Bo” after middleweight Carl “Bobo” Olson. Dean played baseball and basketball in between 4-H competitions and milking cows.

Dean wanted to be a pro ballplayer from fourth grade, stalking Roy Bates, the local baseball coach, until he agreed to mentor him. Bo started hanging around Joe Russo’s Pool Hall at age 14 and learned how to shoot pool and identify easy marks under the tutelage of a hustler named “The Goose.”

One thing everyone who knew Dean as kid said was that he was cock-sure and the star of his own show; his high school coach told Sports Illustrated, ”Dean always had a lot of confidence in himself. As far as he was concerned, nothing was impossible.” Bo always felt like the outsider; Los Angeles magazine quotes him as saying, “I was born apart. My mother was Jewish, my father Polish Catholic. To Jews I was a Polack. To Poles I was a kike. I was removed—removed from people in my family, people in my school. Even in my youth, I didn’t know where to park myself.”

Dean had scouts beating down his door when he pitched no less than 18 no-hitters in high school. Bo never played baseball or any sport in high school, preferring to make cash money by hustling rubes in South Jersey poolhalls. After a bidding war, the Orioles traded Dean’s signature on a contract for a $30,000 bonus. A scout found Bo pitching sandlot ball in jeans and sneakers and signed him to a minor league contract for $185 a month.

By 1958, both were pitching in the Baltimore Orioles farm system. Management considered Dean a good prospect, but too brash and cocky. The same Orioles brain trust liked Bo’s strikeout numbers but thought he just didn’t give a shit. Dean found that he had a way with cards and developed a rep as a minor league card sharp. Bo became an all-star night crawler and MVP womanizer.

A wild streak kept Dean buried in the bus leagues. In 1960, the O’s were about to call Bo up for a look-see, but he busted his hand on some guy’s head in a bar brawl and sat out the rest of the season.

The American League’s expansion to ten teams for 1961 reprieved both from baseball obscurity. The Orioles chose to hold on to minor league pitchers Steve Barber and Stave Dalkowski and left Dean and Bo available for the expansion draft. After some horse-trading, both wound up with the Los Angeles Angels.

The time and place could not have been more perfect. Since they came to town in 1958, the Dodgers were the toast of Los Angeles. Their World Series victory in ’59 made the team celebrities almost as big as the actors in Hollywood. But, while guys like Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale were superstars on the diamond, their business-like personalities and their suit and tie Dodgers management were stale compared to the flamboyant lifestyles of the Hollywood crowd.

Enter the new Angels. Cobbled together out of cast-offs and has-beens, the ’61 Halos managed to finish a surprising 8th in the 10 team league. Their management team of singing cowboy actor Gene Autry as owner, GM Fred Haney who had managed the Milwaukee Braves to back-to-back pennants and a World Championship, and crusty baseball-lifer Bill Rigney as manager, gave the Angels a burst of flair that the stodgy Dodgers didn’t have.

For ’62, the Angels moved into the brand-new Dodgers Stadium. As an act of underdog rebellion, the name of the stadium was changed to “Chavez Ravine” when the Angels took the field. Now all they needed was some counter-culture cool ballplayers.

Cue Dean and Bo.

Dean had got into five games at the end of the ’61 season and showed up at the Angels Palm Springs spring training camp ready to go. Bo arrived in Palm Springs and went on strike. From a poolside press conference, Bo told reporters that he could make more hustling pool than the $6,000 the Angels were offering him. He eventually punked-out and signed.

That spring Dean’s sweeping curve and slider combined with his sinking heater to convince management they had a future ace on their hands. Bo’s screwball got blasted all over the ballpark in the couple of games he was allowed to pitch. It was a shocker when his name appeared on the Angels opening day roster.

Some time that spring, Bo and Dean had become best pals. From then on, their two names would be forever linked in baseball history.

The Angels dumped their first home game against Kansas City, but the next night Bo got the W in the 3-2 win. He celebrated by financing a last-year’s model Caddy convertible for $4,000 from Mack Kozak’s on Crenshaw. Soon he and Dean were cruising the Sunset Strip in his candy apple red sled (actually “Pompeian Red” according to the ’61 Cadillac look-book).

The pair were Hollywood-ready. Dean was 6-3 with brown hair and clear blue eyes and farm boy lean. Bo was an inch shorter with chunky fists, stark black hair, and brown eyes all the chicks called “dreamy.” Draped in their $200 English-tailored suits, drenched in Aqua Velva, and Brill Creamed-slick hair, the Angelic duo owned the SoCal night.

After that first home win, Bo reeled off two more victories over Cleveland to make his record 3-0, and Dean began peeling off wins himself. Late night on the Sunset Strip the chicks were on the lookout for that red Caddy as the duo swung their way through the clubs to the bedroom.

On the night of Saturday, May 5, Baltimore was in town. Bo had spent the night and morning with a mystery black-haired beauty he’d pulled from a nightclub and was almost late for his start. Defying all the odds, Bo threw a no-hitter against his former organization, whiffing 9 and becoming an instant sensation. Darkly handsome and talking in Jerseyese, Bo’s main comment on his no-no was that if he knew he was gonna do that, he would have gotten a haircut.

Mack Kozak, the car guy who sold Bo his red Caddy, offered to zap 10 months of payments in exchange for the no-hit ball. Bo coughed up the ball, and later a grateful Gene Autry paid off the balance.

One of the fans at the game that night was newspaper and radio gossip columnist Walter Winchell. World famous and able to make or break a celeb with three words or less, Winchell was on the downside of his long career. Trying to stay fresh, he had ventured out to faraway LA from his reserved table at New York City’s Stork Club and somehow wound up at Bo’s no-hitter. The old gossip was instantly taken with the pool-hustling punk and the pair grabbed Dean and hit the Strip even harder than before. Winchell made the Angel aces the stars of his columns and other name-brand celebs took notice.

Hugh Hefner sent them invites to the Playboy Mansion, and they held court in the Grotto. Frank Sinatra and Eddie Fisher waved them over to their tables. A never-ending lineup of out of work actresses were at their beck and call 24-7. On a road trip to DC, FBI czar J. Edgar Hoover let them shoot Tommy Guns in the Bureau’s firing range. Bo said, “J. Edgar? Man, he’s a swinger!” A syndicated newspaper article spilled Bo’s guide to the coolest AL road trip locales – New York, Chicago, and Boston: yes, yes, and yes. Kansas City and Baltimore: “Bo advises anybody caught there with sundown approaching to hop a jet.”

The gossip pages were plastered with Bo’s babe of the week. His no-no allowed him access to top-draw talent and soon Ann-Margret, Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan’s Island), Queen Soraya of Iran, tobacco heiress Doris Duke, Paulette Goddard, Connie Stevens, and Mamie Van Doren were spotted dangling off his arm.

With all the publicity, the Angels management started looking into whether Bo was leading Dean down a bad path. It was Bo who captained the red Caddy and was quoted in all the papers, so it was easy to think the Jersey pool hustler was pulling all the strings. Their Angels teammates knew otherwise: “Dean isn’t any starry-eyed hanger-on,” said outfielder Leon Wagner, adding, “Compared to Chance, Belinsky is a quiet guy. Dean knows his way around, and he can show Bo a few things.”

When Bo moved into his swanky penthouse pad in the Hollywood Hills, the ceiling was painted up in Sistine Chapel style by Pablo Picasso, who had stayed their years earlier. As Bo tells it, Dean “took one look at that ceiling and wanted to drill a hole in it so he could put a card spotter up above for one of his big poker games. That way he could make a killing. Can you imagine anybody drilling a hole through a Picasso so he could cheat at cards?” In a rare moment, Bo found himself as the voice of restraint and shut down Dean’s scheme before he could find a ladder.

Bo won his next start to make it five straight. On June 13, Bo and Dean’s swingin’ lifestyle slinged them a curve. Round about 5am, their red sled was cruising through Beverly Hills loaded down with two women they pulled from the Cocoanut Grove. At a stop light, Bo and Gloria Eves got into an argument. Bo told her to get out, and when she got (Bo’s words) “belligerent,” he tried manhandling her out of the Caddy. A Beverly Hills cop came upon the scene, saw blood over Gloria’s eye, and ran Bo and Dean in. At the station, it was found that Gloria’s cut was “accidental”, and no charges were filed. Still, the incident made all the papers, and the pair were fined $500 each by the team for being late for practice. “Five C’s,” said Dean, “That’s a lot of dough. I could buy five cows with that!” Bo shook it off, letting it be known that he made the five Benjamins all back in a few days of hustling pool around LA.

That early morning ruckus in the 90120 proved to be Bo’s Waterloo. He began losing ballgames hand over fist. He was even on the victim-side of a no-hitter in Boston. On July 6, he was ripped for four runs in the first when Rigney gave him the yank. Instead of waiting on the mound with Rigney for the relief pitcher, Bo stormed off, giving the finger to the stands as the crowd gave him hell. In an effort to right the ship, Bo cruised the Strip in vain, late into the night, on the lookout for his mysterious black-haired no-hit girl, convinced she was his good luck chick.

Meanwhile, Dean had become the team’s workhorse, eclipsing aging veterans Joe Nuxhall and Ryne Duran. He chalked up six wins by the end of June, and soon the Angels were flirting with first place. On the down-low, the Angels tried to dump Bo off on Kansas City, one of the cities rated lowest in Bo’s late night guide. Fortunately for him, the deal was squashed because of technicalities. The Angels finished third and became the darlings of the ’62 season, while Dean went 15-10 to Bo’s 10-11.

In the off-season, Dean was feted as a future LA ace to rival the Dodgers Koufax and Drysdale. Bo rode his early season success as far as he could, appearing as a guest star on hit TV shows 77 Sunset Strip, the Lloyd Bridges Show, and That Regis Philbin Show. He was even name-checked in a song on Allan Sherman’s Grammy-nominated folk parody album “My Son the Folk Singer.”

It’s at this point that the Bo and Dean nightlight burns out. Bo never regained his screwball and was sent to the minors for a good part of 1963. He tried to fly right and stabilize by proposing to Mamie Van Doren, but the pair split after a volatile engagement. He cashed in his last celebrity cred by earning a grand a week for seven weeks as the host of the Silver Slipper club in Las Vegas where he “did a little soft shoe, sang a little in skits with comedians.” The joint closed shortly after his residency.

Bo stayed an Angel through 1965 until he KO’d 64-year-old LA sportswriter Braven Dyer in a 1:30am booze-fueled altercation in the pitcher’s hotel room. Dyer was a pal of Angels owner Gene Autry, so he was dealt off the team and out of the league to the Phillies. He’d retire after the 1971 season with a grand total of 28 big league wins under his belt. He married Playboy centerfold Jo Collins, but the post-baseball life saw him descend into alcohol and pills.

Dean had a year of years in 1964, leading the AL with 20 wins, 278 1/3 inning pitched and a Koufax-esque ERA of 1.65 – still an Angels franchise record. He was voted the Cy Young Award, and, at 23, was the youngest pitcher to win that honor. Perhaps Yankees star Mickey Mantle summed every American League batter’s feeling on Dean when he lamented, “Every time I see his name on a lineup card, I feel like throwing up.” But while he was ranked among the best pitchers in the league, he was a hard guy to play behind. Dean wasn’t afraid to berate anyone who made an error behind him, and once told a sportswriter that he had to strike out as many batters as possible because he didn’t trust his infielders to make the play for an out. His teammates let him know their thoughts by filling his locker with garbage.

He performed well for a bad Angels club the next few years before he was traded away to the Twins in ’67. He rebounded and joined his pal Bo in the no-hitter Hall of Fame by tossing a no-no against Cleveland. He won 20 games and led the league in complete games and innings pitched and was voted the Comeback Player of the Year. Then the arm trouble started, and he was out of the game after 1971, the winner of 128 Major League games.

Dean had invested his baseball earnings in land around where he grew up in Ohio. He returned home and started to pursue a new career in boxing promotion. Dean put his savings into heavyweight Earnie Shavers, made a bundle and then lost it all when he wiped out in two championship challenges against Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes.

The two old teammates were reunited in 1972 when Dean checked Bo into an Akron rehab hospital. Twenty-eight days later he was released, and the first thing he did was buy a bottle of wine. Next thing he knew he was living under a bridge in Akron. He migrated back to LA, where he fell in with a bad crowd. He traded booze for cocaine and then tried to get clean by relocating to Hawaii. Walking down the beach one afternoon, he rescued a woman foundering in the surf. Turned out she was Jane Weyerhaeuser, a jet-setting heiress. The two married, had twin daughters, and Bo relapsed. The marriage almost ended in a drunken hail of .38 bullets that wounded his wife. The two stayed together into the early 1980s. Bo went through a long rehab, found Jesus, and began helping other addicts. He created a niche career as a professional schmoozer, hired by various firms to take their clients on golf outings and a trip down memory lane in his red Caddy and the summer of ’62.

After the Shavers losses, Dean gave up the boxing racket. He made a little money renting the farmland he owned and hit the road working the midway games on the carnival circuit. Eventually he operated his own company of over 100 games that employed more than 250 people dispatched all over the Midwest during fair season.

The baseball card nostalgia boom of the 1980s again reunited Bo and Dean. As a Cy Young winner, Dean was invited to card shows all over the country. He accepted with one condition: his pal Bo must be invited as well. The two could be heard yukking it up for the crowd, with Bo whipping out his line, “I got more out of 28 victories than any major leaguer in history. Anybody can be a star if he wins 300 games. Let him try being a star winning only 28 games.” The two made the card shows up until Bo passed away in 2001. Best friends to the end, Dean organized a memorial service for his pal at Dodger Stadium and handled his burial.

Dean passed away 14 years later, his 1.65 ERA and 1964 season still the best season ever in the history of the Angels franchise. But it will always be his friendship with Bo that Dean will be remembered for. Those two young pitchers gave the fledgling Angels an uber-cool identity that elevated them from mere expansion team to a respectable fan option to the juggernaut Dodgers. Along the way they rubbed elbows with celebrities when that term meant something.

Like Dizzy and Daffy, Josh and Satch, and Babe and Lou, Bo and Dean made baseball real fun for a time. And isn’t that something we all sorely need again?

* * *

This week’s story is Number 65 in a series of collectible booklets.

 

Each of the hand-numbered and signed 4 ¼” x 5 1/2″ booklets feature an 8 to 24 page story along with a colored art card attached to the inside back cover. These mini-books can be bought individually, thematically or collected as a never-ending set. In addition to the individual booklets, I envision there being themed sets, such as the series I did on Minor League Home Run Champions. You can order a Subscription to Season 5 as well. A year subscription includes a guaranteed regular 12 issues at a discounted price, plus at least one extra Subscriber Special Issue. Each subscription will begin with Booklet Number 054 and will be active through December of 2023. Booklets 1-53 can be purchased as a group, too.

 

1 thought on “Bo and Dean: The Swingin’ Slingers of the 1962 Angels

  1. Great story. As a 10 year old MLB fan in ’64, I wasn’t aware of their late night hijinks. Today’s pitchers don’t come close in endurance or color.

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