You could make a strong case that Tucson High's 25-0 state championship baseball team of 1972 was the best in Arizona history, and that its senior pitcher/second baseman Frank Castro delivered an individual season unsurpassed in state history.
A lot of those memories came back last week when Castro died unexpectedly and a memorial service was held for him at Victory Worship Center. He was 59.
Castro didn't reach the major leagues the way his local contemporaries Paul Moskau and Ron Hassey did - Castro played professionally in Mexico after a college career at Pima and NAU - but over 25 games in 1972, he was as good as it gets.
He went 13-0 as the club's pitching ace; he batted cleanup in the Badgers' order and completed the season with a .442 batting average.
In the '72 state tournament at Rendezvous Park in Mesa, Castro did something that will almost certainly never be matched:
• In Game 1, a Wednesday, he pitched a complete-game one-hitter, beating Carl Hayden High School 10-1. It improved his record to 11-0.
• In Game 2, a Thursday, Castro pitched five innings of shutout relief in a 6-5 win over Scottsdale Coronado, the winning pitcher, also driving in the game-tying run.
• In Game 3, a Friday, Castro came on in relief in the second inning and went 6 2/3 innings in the state title game, a two-hit shutout, as Tucson beat Chandler 4-3 in extra innings.
In that 51-hour period, Castro pitched 18 2/3 innings, yielded six hits and one run, struck out 18 and was the winning pitcher in all three games.
"My arm was a little bit sore," he said in an interview 10 years ago. "But I told coach (Ray Adkins) I'd be ready if he needed me."
And he was.
In the history of prep baseball in Tucson, only four other pitchers won 13 games in a season: Tucson's Tavo Alvarez, Salpointe's Mike Crawford, Marana's John Bustamonte and Catalina's Danny Fregoso.
But Castro was the only one to go undefeated.
His 32 career victories were a state record by a big schools pitcher until 2005, when Glendale Mountain Ridge's Brian Budrow had 34.
The '72 Badgers are the only Arizona big school baseball team to go undefeated since 1947.
After being an All-ACCAC pitcher/outfielder at Pima College in 1975, Castro pitched at NAU, throwing a no-hitter against Colorado in 1976 and later eschewing a chance to sign with the Cleveland Indians to pitch in Mexico, his father's native land.
In the final years of his life - Castro worked at many mines in Southern Arizona, from Phelps Dodge and Magma to Sierrita and Freeport-McMoRan - he taught algebra, of all things, at a school in San Carlos, Mexico.
And one more thing: When Tucson High went 11-1 to win the 1971 state football title, Castro was the starting quarterback.
His place in Tucson prep history will last forever.
UA lineman wins egg-eating contest as Wildcats bond
The UA produced a video about its recent spring football Olympics, which appeared to be a combination of belly flops off the high dive, water-balloon catching and egg-eating. In other words, team bonding. Junior offensive lineman Trent Spurgeon consumed 10 eggs in 48 seconds, a team record. Could Joey Chestnut's world hot dog eating record be next? … The UA's annual NFL Pro Day will be held on campus Thursday. Quarterback Matt Scott, who already appears destined be a mid-round draft pick, could improve his status even more. Those who could gain positive traction are receiver Dan Buckner and versatile Taimi Tutogi. I also think center Kyle Quinn could get enough attention to sign a free agent contract in April. … UA football coach Rich Rodriguez said it won't be possible to determine a depth chart in spring ball. Much of it is that Arizona will be missing about 10 significant players because of injuries. Another part is that the Wildcats are allowed but seven full-contact practices. And a third part is that three new coaches - offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, safeties coach Matt Caponi and special teams coach Charlie Ragle - are still in the discovery stage. RichRod's real evaluation period for a roster in flux will come in the NAU, Texas-San Antonio and UNLV break-in to the 2013 season. … Chase Budinger, who injured his left knee six games into the NBA season and underwent surgery, has started working out again, individually, and not with his Minnesota Timberwolves teammates. The former All-Pac-10 Arizona forward may be able to play in the final five or 10 games for Minnesota in the regular season. … Moving into contention in the ongoing Honda Classic, Rincon/University High grad Michael Thompson went back to basics to snap out of an early-season slump. He spent considerable time the last three weeks working with his Tucson golf instructor, Susie Meyers, a former UA standout and LPGA player.
More short stuff
Ex-Wildcat Mejias-Brean quickly turning heads with Reds
It didn't take Seth Mejias-Brean long to go from the Arizona lineup to that of the Cincinnati Reds. The star third baseman of Arizona's 2012 College World Series championship team, a Cienega High School grad, was invited to the Reds' major-league camp last week. On Thursday, he played against the Colorado Rockies, hitting a double in two at-bats. Mejias-Brean made Cincinnati's minor-league All-Star team last year, hitting .313 at rookie league Billings (Mont.) and is expected to open at third for the Class A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons next month. … Sahuaro High grad Pat McCoy also got his first major-league experience in spring training last week. The 6-foot-4-inch left-hander pitched in relief Monday and Thursday, against the Mets in both games. He gave up three runs in two innings. McCoy is likely to open the season at Class AAA Syracuse (N.Y.) for the Washington Nationals. … Canyon del Oro grad Shelley Duncan hit his first spring training homer as part of the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. He is working on a minor-league contract, but Rays manager Joe Maddon told Florida reporters "he's going to have a positive impact on us this year. I like his energy." Shelley's younger brother, ex-CDO standout Chris Duncan, forced to retire from baseball two years ago, is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments for a brain tumor. He is a sports-talk radio host in St. Louis, where he played for the Cardinals from 2005 to 2009. … Ex-UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes signed a $9.7 million contract to be the head coach at Cal. Among his perks: a $590,000 signing bonus and five parking passes near Berkeley's Memorial Stadium, among the most coveted items on the space-challenged Cal campus.
UA commit's standout stat: 8 to 1 assist/turnover ratio
When Los Angeles Loyola High School junior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright made a commitment to play for Arizona last week, it wasn't without a few UA connections. Jackson-Cartwright's teammate at Loyola is Trey Mason, son of 1988 Arizona Final Four guard Harvey Mason. Another Loyola teammate is Max Hazzard, brother of UA walk-on guard Jacob Hazzard. Mason leads the Cubs with a 15-point scoring average. Most impressive Jackson-Cartwright stat: an 8 to 1 assist/turnover ratio. … UA coach Sean Miller, whose recruiting work since arriving at Arizona is second to none in the Pac-12, wasn't around to recruit probable Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe of Cal. Crabbe committed to the Bears in November 2008, when Russ Pennell was Arizona's interim coach. Crabbe chose among Nevada, Oregon State, Utah and Cal. Think Crabbe could've made a difference for the Wildcats this year? … I don't blame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for his stated fear that fans storming the court pose a potential for mayhem. I've watched as Oregon State fans at Gill Coliseum, Oregon fans at Mac Court, Stanford fans at Maples Pavilion and Cal fans at old Harmon Gym rushed the court after upsetting Arizona, and each time security was outnumbered in a hurry. In 1999, losing at OSU, Arizona guard Jason Terry was pushed around by Beaver fans. Terry threw a punch to protect himself. Coach Lute Olson himself was accosted by Ducks fans in the '90s and somehow avoided a full-scale brawl. … Salpointe Catholic, under third-year coach Brian Holstrom, has quietly gone 69-26 the last three seasons, reaching this year's Division II state title game. The Lancers will likely be favored to win the 2014 championship as Holstrom returns his top five scorers: Jaylyn Juan, Cameron Denson, Tom McEvoy, Hunter Lowry and Ryan Callaghan. Juan, who will be a junior, projects as a Division I prospect. At 6-4, 190, he averaged 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore. … Arizona grad Josh Pastner, 35, coached his 100th victory at Memphis on Saturday. Krzyzewski was 34 when he won No. 100. Olson was 45, Sean Miller 40. The one-time "boy coach" is into coaching manhood for sure.
My two cents
Benefits of having Match Play tourney here are immeasurable
No matter what the talking heads at Golf Channel say - John Feinstein is the latest to say the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship should move from Dove Mountain to Florida - it's not about the weather, the players' dislike for Jack Nicklaus' golf course, geographical inconvenience, or the inability of developers to sell property adjacent to the course itself.
It's about the money raised by the Conquistadores that stays in Tucson.
Next time you drive by the intersection of La Cholla Boulevard and Curtis Road, give some attention to the Southern Arizona Community Sports Center. The Conquistadores have contributed more than $1 million to that indoor facility, a 40,000 square-foot resource that will include five basketball courts and eight volleyball courts.
The Match Play tournament is essentially a TV show sponsored by Accenture. Whether it goes or whether it stays beyond 2014, the benefits overcome the insecurity of its future.