An accomplished athlete, Mike Belkin excelled in basketball and baseball. He received a basketball scholarship from the University of Wisconsin, and later played both sports at Wisconsin State College-Whitewater. In August 1955, Mike was was signed as a semi-pro by the Milwaukee Braves. He pitched for the Class AA Texas League Beaumont Exporters in 1955 and the Class B Big State League Corpus Christi Clippers in 1956.
After his time in minor league baseball, Belkin enrolled in Western Reserve University’s business school. While in college, he continued working in his parents’ clothing stores, learning from his father and other sharp retailers, such as Henry Lifshitz, owner of the Uncle Bill’s retail chain.
When Belkin asked Ashtabula promoter LeRoy Anderson if he wanted to partner on shows in Cleveland, “Belkin & Anderson” was born. The first show featured Belkin’s choice of the Four Freshman, because he “liked their music.” The 1966 show was their first taste of success in Cleveland.
A few of years after starting Belkin Productions, Belkin was ready to step it up. He began managing the James Gang, the Michael Stanley Band, Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, and Wild Cherry, of Play That Funky Music fame. “We were doing stuff all the time,” says Belkin. “The ’70s were extremely busy. I was managing bands in Cleveland and working more of the Cleveland dates.”
To Belkin, sports and rock have a natural bond. The famous ‘World Series of Rock’ was a 6-year, fifteen-show lineup that consistently filled Cleveland’s 80,000 seat Municipal Stadium during the mid-to-late ’70s when the Cleveland Indians couldn’t. This unique concept of multiple bands in one day-long, outdoor stadium concert kicked off on June 23, 1974 with a bill that included the Beach Boys, Joe Walsh and Barnstorm, Lynyrd Skynyrd and REO Speedwagon.
Belkin’s interest in art developed after college. Together with his wife, Annie, the two have assembled a very discriminating collection of art, particularly glass art. Belkin has personally supported the careers of such luminaries in the field as Henry Halem, Steven Weinberg, Dale Chihuly and William Carlson. In 2011, the the Belkins donated 64 of Paul Stankard’s intricately detailed and organic glassworks to the Akron Art Museum, thus creating the largest assortment of Stankard sculptures and paperweights in the world.