Bo Belinsky should not be smiling, really. His bladder cancer is back for the third time, he suffers from clinical depression, diabetes and an ulcerated stomach, and he needs hip replacement surgery, which makes each step painful because, as a recovering drug and alcohol addict, he tries to avoid painkillers. Once a serial squirer of starlets, he is now a thrice-divorced father of 25-year-old twin girls (by second wife Jane Weyerhaeuser) he has not spoken to in 15 years. To call his last three years a living hell, as he does, is to traffic in understatement. "I was walking around like a zombie, and I wanted out," says the former major league pitcher who made headlines of all kinds during the 1960s. "I was smiling on the outside, but dying on the inside."
He found salvation in the unlikeliest place: Las Vegas. Belinsky, 63, once the proto-playboy athlete, is a born-again Christian and a used-car salesman who lives only a few blocks from the Vegas Strip. "When I was drinking and using, it was total insanity," he says of his life in the 1960s and early 70s, spent largely in Southern California and Honolulu. "Now, my life is peaceful."
It's also much slower. He is a field director of six car dealerships, and his week usually includes a visit to a golf course—and his Pentecostal church. He may have renounced the wild lifestyle he led as a pitcher from 1962 to 70 with five teams, but he still enjoys the stories from that era. Today he tells the one about waking up the morning before he pitched his 1962 no-hitter for the Angels with a woman he'd met on Sunset Strip the night before ("She had to kick me out"), then follows with a story about a day at the races in '63 at Del Mar, sharing a luxury box with J. Edgar Hoover and Walter Winched. ("With those two on your side, you could do about anything—which I did".)
When asked about regrets, Belinsky closes his eyes for a long while before answering: "We spend the first 50 years of our life satisfying our ego, and the rest trying to clean our slate. I just want to tell my daughters that I love them and"—because they are, after all, their father's daughters—"to always have a good time."