New York City-born, to a Polish American Catholic father and a Jewish American mother, but raised mostly in Trenton, New Jersey, where he became a street rat and one-time pool hustler, Belinsky was known notoriously enough around the minor leagues for his night life during several seasons in the Oriole farm system. His career and life changed when the Angels picked him in a minor league draft for the 1962 season. His pre-season contract holdout and charismatic personality made him a star before he'd thrown a single pitch in major league competition.
But the no-hitter---his fourth straight win to launch his rookie season---would make his name irrevocably and, perhaps, spell the beginning of his long downfall. He would go 5-0, then 7-1, then 7-7, before finishing the 1962 season with a 10-11 won-lost record, a 3.56 earned run average, and the league lead in walks (122), the only time Belinsky ever led his league in any pitching category.
Perhaps tellingly, however, after throwing the no-hitter Belinsky also said, "If music be the food of love, by all means let the band play on." The 1962 season was a raucous one for Belinsky in that he became glittering copy for southern California sportswriters with his wit and unapologetic womanizing. "Within days of his no-hitter Belinsky would be heralded as sport's most original and engaging playboy-athlete," pitcher-turned-journalist Pat Jordan wrote in a striking 1971 Sports Illustrated profile. "His name would become synonymous with a lifestyle that was cool and slick and dazzling . . . But in time the name Belinsky would become synonymous with something else. It would become synonymous with dissipated talent."
The no-hitter was the first of eight thrown by Jewish pitchers in a decade spanning from 1962 to . The others: Sandy Koufax in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965; Joe Horlen in 1967; and Ken Holtzman in 1969 and 1971.
In addition to pitching the first no-hitter in Angels' history, Belinsky was also on the losing end of the first no-hitter ever pitched against the Angels—Earl Wilson's 2-0 gem at Fenway Park on June 26 of the same 1962 season. The Boston Red Sox pitcher hit a home run in that game, one of three no-hit pitchers ever to do so.
And it took the inevitable toll on the field. Belinsky fell to 1-7 in . His poor performance earned him a farming out to the Angels' minor league team in Hawaii, where he pitched his way back and finished the year with a 2-9 major league record. A game he pitched and won for the Angels in Dodger Stadium set a record of sorts; the headline the following day, in the Los Angeles Times read: "476 --Count 'Em -- See Bo Stifle Orioles."
But Belinsky was 9-7 with a career-best 2.86 ERA in August 1964 when came the incident that ended his days with the Angels: a hotel room fight with elderly Los Angeles Times sportswriter Braven Dyer. Belinsky was suspended from the Angels, then traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the season for Costen Shockley and Rudy May. After spending a little over a season with the Phillies, in which he was used mostly as a long reliever before his release to the minor leagues, Belinsky also pitched for the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds, before his career ended in the Cincinnati minor league system in .
"What was clear," Jordan wrote, "was that Belinsky had dissipated a promising career, that people had grown tired of him, and that most of the problem could be traced to his personality. He did not have the knack of such later athletes - the Namaths, Harrelsons, and Sandersons - of cultivating his personality precisely up to, but not beyond, that point at which the public became bored with it."
Belinsky married and divorced Playboy Playmate of the Year Jo Collins, then heiress Janie Weyerhaeuser. He eventually overcame alcoholism to become first a counselor and spokesman for the alcohol abuse program he entered in Hawaii and, then, an auto agency representative in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clean, sober, and a born-again Christian ("Can you imagine," he was quoted as saying, "finding Jesus Christ in Las Vegas?"), Belinsky battled bladder cancer before his death in Las Vegas of an apparent heart attack at age 64.
Veteran sportswriter Maury Allen wrote a biography of Belinsky, Bo: Pitching and Wooing, "with the uncensored cooperation of Bo Belinsky," in 1973.