Today’s Card of the Day comes to us from the 2005 Topps set. It features Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Jose Castillo, fresh off of his rookie season. It was really surprising the first time I looked back on his career and saw that he only played four seasons with the Pirates, as well as five total seasons in the majors. I was also a bit surprised to see that he finished with -2.4 WAR with the Pirates. His one good season wasn’t as good as I remembered apparently, and his defense rated slightly below what I remembered as well. It’s not a huge difference, but I would have guessed he was around that 0.0 replacement level mark with the Pirates. He definitely had his good moments in Pittsburgh, including some double plays he turned with Jack Wilson that made for a nice highlight reel.
Castillo would have been 42 years old today if not for his tragic passing during winter ball in Venezuela late in 2018. He was 37 years old at the time, in his 21st season of pro ball. This is his third appearance in our Card of the Day series. This is the first appearance for the 2005 Topps set, something I just found out while in the middle of typing this sentence. I have no idea how I missed this set for three full years in an almost daily article. Here’s a look at card #589 from that set.
Here’s the front of the card:
It doesn’t show up great here, but this is a white border set that uses team colors in the design. Even though the “2005” and Topps logos at the bottom are hard to see, I really like the look of Pirates written across the bottom in a black band. That look replaces the team logo on the front. It’s interesting that they decided to put last names across the top, then had the full name down the side.
This is a nice action shot of Castillo, with a photobomb from the great Hank Aaron on the outfield wall. That photo allows you to identify this game. Castillo only played two games in Atlanta during his rookie season and only one was a day game. This photo is from a 2-1 Pirates lost on July 22, 2004. Castillo went 0-for-3 before being pinch-hit for by the aforementioned Jack Wilson.
Here’s the back of the card:
I’m a big fan of the backs of these cards. They kept the team color theme with the gold band across the bottom and the small band up top. The Pirates team logo could be bigger, but I’ll take what I can get when they don’t put it on the front of the card. I love the stats/bio section being black writing on a white background to make it easier reading. The final highlight here is the added photo of Castillo.
I was a fan of Castillo when he burst onto the scene. I had lower expectations for his offense in his first season because he never played Triple-A. So I was happy with the results from that year, especially since he was 23 years old. I thought he would have a bigger future with the team, but that didn’t pan out. The fact that Freddy Sanchez became an All-Star made it a bit easier to swallow. Castillo ended up having a great pro career. He was closing in on 3,000 hits when he was tragically struck down in his home country during a night time highway robbery. He truly was a baseball lifer.
If you’re interested in this card, it’s one of those commons where you should be able to find it from multiple sellers for under $2 delivered. There are some other options, including autographed cards. Those cards are priced $15-$25, though one person has it for $5. If you want that one, just make sure it’s legit by comparing it to known signatures. I’ll just say that it looks good to me, but that’s not a guarantee. There are other versions, including a one-of-one printing plate version for $27. There are chrome and gold versions that are harder to find than the regular card, but still easy to find. Both can be found for $3 delivered. There’s a black refractor version that I really like, with the cheapest one being $8 delivered.