It was the top of the ninth inning on October 5, 1984, and when the ball went into the air every head in Tiger Stadium jerked skyward. Seconds later the sphere was secure in the glove of third baseman Marty Castillo and the Detroit Tigers had won their first pennant in 16 seasons. Castillo joined his teammates in celebration around pitcher Willie Hernandez.
It was the final out of the 1984 American League Playoffs and Castillo was in the right place at the right time. He was at the center of history in an historic season. Ironically, he’d been thinking about the moment for weeks, and he was tempted to do something strange, something he’d been dared to do. Teammate Doug Bair, a relief pitcher with a similarly wacky sense of humor as Castillo’s, had dared Marty that if he was in position to grab the final out of a clinching game he should catch the baseball behind his back.
“It went through my mind,” Castillo joked in the clubhouse.
But the Detroit infielder didn’t mess around, he caught the ball in traditional fashion and the Tigers advanced to the World Series. Once there, they easily dispatched of the San Diego Padres and Marty earned a ring. Castillo was a bit player on that team, but like most of the Tiger bench that season, he had a career year.
A 5th round selection of the Detroit Tigers in the 1978 amateur draft, Castillo began his career as a third baseman but was used at first base and as a catcher in the minor leagues. He debuted with Detroit in 1981 but didn’t really become a fixture on the roster until 1983 when manager Sparky Anderson tagged him for his bench because of his versatility. In ’84, Castillo saw action in 70 games, playing third in 33, catching in 36, and DHing once. He served as the primary backup to starter Lance Parrish, often catching Detroit’s 4th or 5th starters – Juan Berenguar, Glenn Abbott, or Dave Rozema. He proved especially useful to Sparky over a span of nine days in August when the team played three doubleheaders.
Besides being in the right place to catch the final out of the playoffs, Castillo was valuable in the post-season in other ways. The right-handed batter drove in the winning run in the final game of the playoffs against the Kansas City Royals, and in the Fall Classic he hit .333 (3-for-9) with a home run off lefty Tim Lollar in Detroit’s Game Three victory.
In ’85 Castillo was used much the same way, but he had a poor year, hitting .119 with two homers and five RBI in 57 games. The reason the Tigers didn’t repeat wasn’t because the stars slumped – Trammell and Whitaker and Morris were still super- it was the collective collapse of Sparky’s bench. Castillo came back with the Mud Hens in Toledo in ’86 but he never again played in the big leagues.
During his baseball career Castillo seemed to have perfect timing, but after he left the game his life has been less fortunate. One of the most likable members of Detroit’s ’84 Championship team, Castillo has had little to no contact with his former teammates since leaving baseball. He has bounced from job to job after unsuccessfully trying to secure a position in professional baseball. In 1999 he was convicted of assault and battery against his wife and spent time in jail. Late in 2011 another domestic incident allegedly occurred and he currently faces similar charges. A criminal trial is pending in Florida and Castillo faces prison time if convicted.