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Twenty years have past but many still remember the exploits, both off the field and on, of the Angels most colorful duo of all time : BELINSKY & CHANCE

June 24, 1985|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

Now, some 20 years after being separated by trade, they remain best friends, kindred spirits, their names forever linked in the folklore of baseball and the history of a franchise celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Forget Jim Fregosi and Bobby Knoop, Rod Carew and Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana.

For many who have charted the often star-crossed fortunes of the Angels, the most recognizable, most identifiable names remain Bo Belinsky and Dean Chance.

Does that say something about the Angels or the impact of that strange partnership?

Do we always tend to remember style rather than substance?

Are we given to having our history illuminated by neon?

Amid frozen time, the camera of the mind sees Bo and Dean as briefly having it all.

The early 60s.

Kings of the American League hills. Princes of Hollywood when there still was a Hollywood.

Does it matter now how they are remembered or why they are remembered?

Dean Chance, visiting Anaheim Stadium for the recent old-timers' game, shook his head and said, "Hell, no. I'm happy just to be remembered. A couple years ago I was visiting Bo in Hawaii and we meet Don Ho, the entertainer. Ho was all excited. He said, 'Hey, I've finally met the great Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky. Don't leave without me because I'm going out with you two tonight.' "

The headlines once told us they were out almost every night.


Wilmer Dean Chance is 44 and prowls the multicolored lights of the midway.

He operates games of chance--skill, he insists--at carnivals and fairs. He is one of the most successful operators on a tough circuit.

Big enough to employ 250 people and run some 40 games at the Ohio State Fair, of which he said:

"In baseball lingo, that's my World Series. I lose about 20 pounds in 17 days. If it rains, I lose my ass."

Big enough, too, to have blown $250,000 in one year managing fighters, and to be able to spend the winters in Miami, the summers on the road, all calls channeled through his mother's house in Wooster, Ohio.

He is big enough now to restrict his schedule to the fairs at Columbus, Ohio; Raleigh, N.C.; Augusta, Ga., Syracuse, N.Y; Hollywood, Fla., and Corpus Christi, Tex. He got involved through a friend who sold posters.

"Any idiot can build games and run them," Chance said. "The trick is to make money with them. I've done OK. I'm like retired. I go to four or five fairs a year and a few old-timers' games to see the guys.

"The smartest thing I ever did was to buy a couple farms while I was still playing. I've got about 280 acres near Wooster which I lease. I'm not the richest guy, but I'm not the poorest. I've got my health. I'm having fun."

Robert (Bo) Belinsky is 49. He has weathered a long struggle with chemical dependency, which he voluntarily talks about in schools and on military bases. He has lived on the North shore of Oahu in a remote area called Kua Aaina since 1982. Or as Belinsky said: "Dean has his farms in Ohio. I never thought I'd catch up with him, but I'm now just a country bumpkin, too."

Belinsky's life style is simple, secluded. His office is the white sand. His passions are wind surfing and body boarding. He is reluctant to talk about income, but he said:

"I was lucky. I had my run. I saved a little money, made a few investments, bought some real estate when you could still buy it.

"I'm semi-retired, which only means that in a few months I'll be looking for work. I may go see the mayor, ask him to hang a whistle around my neck and see if I can earn a few dollars working in the recreation department.

"You've got to understand that it's a very humble existence here. Nice people. Clean air. Beautiful scenery. I mean, I'm like Dean. Money is not our god. We may have $100,000 one year and be borrowing $10 the next."

Belinsky is miles from where he once was.

"If someone had told me 20 years ago that I'd be sitting out here, watching the palm leaves rustle in the wind I'd have said 'No way.' It's just that there comes a time when you have to slow down. I'm finally learning how to live out here.

"In fact, I get the DTs now, the shakes, if I have to go into Honolulu. I still get bored sometimes, but I'm at the stage where if I'm going to get bored, I don't mind boring myself."

No major league player ever received more publicity for accomplishing less than Bo Belinsky. He won a grand total of 28 games during a major league career that spanned six seasons. His highest salary was $18,000.

Five of those wins came in succession at the start of the 1962 season and included a no-hitter May 5 against Baltimore. Years later, Belinsky said:

"The night before my no-hitter I met this tall, thin, black-haired secretary out at a place on the Sunset Strip. We had a couple of drinks and I wound up at her pad. . . . I got home about 4 a.m. and that night pitched my no-hitter. I went back to look for her after the game and couldn't find her. I never found her again. She was my good-luck pitching charm. When I lost her, I lost all my pitching luck."

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