I was shocked to learn of the death of former major league pitcher Frank Castillo this past Sunday. The 44-year old drowned while swimming in Bartlett Lake, Ariz.
Unless you’re a diehard baseball history nut like myself, you may not remember Castillo. In his 13-year major league career with the Cubs, Colorado, Detroit, Toronto, Boston and Florida, Castillo tallied a fairly ordinary 82-104 record. But I have two specific memories of the pitcher who I first saw on a 1991 Upper Deck baseball card.
Castillo made his major league debut with the Cubs against Pittsburgh on June 27, 1991. For eight innings, Castillo out pitched former NL Cy Young award winner Doug Drabek. The Cubs rookie limited the Pirates to only three hits over eight innings and took a 3-0 lead to the bottom of the ninth inning at Three Rivers Stadium.
Attempting to earn a complete game shutout, Castillo allowed a pair of singles to open the bottom of the ninth. He left the game still in line to earn the victory, but watched in dismay as the Cubs bullpen let him down. Paul Assenmacher and Heathcliff Slocumb allowed four runs to cross the plate as the Pirates rallied for a 4-3 win.
For as well as Castillo pitched in his major league debut, the game was remembered more for the Pirates remarkable comeback than Castillo’s impressive performance. He finished the 1991 season with a 6-7 record.
If Castillo saw a no decision snatched from victory in his debut, he suffered another disappointing fate on Sept. 25, 1995. Facing arch-rival St. Louis at Wrigley Field, Castillo only allowed two walks through the first eight innings. In the top of the ninth, Castillo struck out pinch-hitters Terry Bradshaw and Mark Sweeney to put himself one out away from a no-hitter.
Only Bernard Gilkey stood between Castillo and history. Gilkey fell behind 0-2 but then took the next two pitches to even the count at 2-2. But then Gilkey tripled to center field to end the no-hit bid. Castillo rebounded to get Tripp Cromer to fly out to right field as the Cubs earned a 7-0 win.
Castillo may have had an ordinary career, but he suffered two near misses that may have made him more prominent.
Rest in Peace, Frank Castillo.