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Bobby Castillo dies at 59

Bobby Castillo, pitching in the 1981 World Series.
Bobby Castillo, pitching in the 1981 World Series.
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LOS ANGELES -- Former Dodgers pitcher and Los Angeles fixture Bobby Castillo passed away on Monday morning in Los Angeles after battling cancer. He was 59.

Castillo, a graduate of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, pitched for the Dodgers from 1977-81 and in 1985 and was most famously known for teaching the screwball to Fernando Valenzuela, his teammate in 1980-81, and later in 1985.

"I was very saddened to hear about Bobby’s passing this morning," Valenzuela said Monday in a statement. "He was a great teammate and friend. I’ll always be grateful for his influence on my pitching. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."

Castillo pitched for nine seasons in the big leagues. He was drafted by the Royals in 1974, then purchased by the Dodgers in 1977. The right-handed Castillo made his major league debut in relief against the Big Red Machine on Sept. 10, 1977. He retired the first batter he faced, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, on a ground ball to first base.

Castillo was 38-40 with a 3.94 ERA and 18 saves in his big league career, including 15-16 with 18 saves and a 3.89 ERA in 173 games, including seven starts, with the Dodgers. He also pitched three seasons for the Twins from 1982-84.

Castillo led the Dodgers in saves in 1979, with seven. He pitched on four division-winning Dodgers teams (1977, 1978, 1981, 1985), pitched in a pair of League Championship Series (1981, 1985) and in the 1981 World Series.

In a 2005 interview with David Greenberger, Castillo's mother Nellie spoke about her son's big league dreams:

My son was nine years old, and he told me, "Mom, I'm gonna play for the Dodgers. I'm gonna pitch at Dodger's Stadium" I said, "You are?" He says, "Yes." I could have told my son, "Forget it kid, it's not gonna happen." But you know what? I didn't want to break his dream, I wanted to encourage him to go forward, and I didn't want to burst his bubble. I said to him, "Why not? If that's what you want to do, go for it, sure." And then he would tell me, "You know, I'm want to play for the Dodgers mom, but I want to play even if I have to play for the Mets!"

After his retirement, Castillo was a longtime participant in various community service endeavors in and around Los Angeles, including baseball clinics, hospital visits, the Dodgers' Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, and children's holiday party last year.

Castillo is survived by his mother, Nellie, his daughter, Mellanie, his daughter, Sara, and her husband, Andrew Sanchez, his son Robert III, and his sister, Lorraine, and her husband, Peter Gonzalez.