by Paul West
Today is the anniversary of one of the most memorable moments in the history of the New York Yankees. On July 18th, 1999, David Cone threw a perfect game in front of the Yankees’ home crowd, against the Montréal Expos. It’s a day that will be fondly remembered by countless Yankee fans, but one Bronx resident has a particularly unique recollection of that day. That man is Luis “Squeegee” Castillo, who served as the Yankees’ batboy during much of what became known as the “Core Four” dynastic period. I profiled Castillo a few years ago on Through The Fence Baseball; last week I spoke with him again, as he reflected on his time with the Yankees and revisited his unheralded part in a great MLB memory. “Squeegee,” as he’s still known among friends and family, issued the following statement:
To have been a batboy for eight years, for the most famous franchise in sports history, was an enormous honor and an experience that I cherish in my heart. People always ask me, “what were your favorite moments?” I always reply that there were many, but one stands out from all my years with the organization–and that’s David Cone’s perfect game. Not just because I was part of the organization at the time, but because I got to cherish a moment within the game with my childhood idol. In the bowels of the old Yankee Stadium, he asked me to warm him up after a rain delay in the third inning; but the pipes were really low, and we couldn’t throw to each other very well. While we were throwing, Cone skipped a few off the pipes to me! So he decided that we should go on the field in front of our dugout to continue to throw, while the Montréal Expos’ Javier Vasquez was warming up on the mound. Everyone, from fans to the players and coaches, was watching me and Cone throw. I threw one ball that one-hopped on Coney, and he came up with it like it was a piece of cake. I glanced into the dugout, and all I saw was our bench coach Don Zimmer holding his hand over his mouth and laughing. He could see how nervous I was! My exact thoughts were, “please don’t hurt Coney because it will be my last day on the job!” We threw it back and forth about ten times, and on the last toss he threw he gave me a thumbs-up to signal that we were done throwing. I kept the ball in my back pocket to get signed after the game was over, because I’d just thrown with my idol during a game…but God had other plans that day. Coney went on to throw a perfect game on Yogi Berra Day. Just to make the day even crazier, Don Larsen had thrown out the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra, reliving Larsen’s perfect game during the 1956 World Series. It was a bizarre day, and for me it had a humbling ending: Cone memorialized my baseball with the words “P.G. 7/18/1999 David Cone.” Two weeks later, I also received a gift watch in a brown box, with “Perfect Game David Cone 7/18/1999” on the box. It was a token of appreciation from Coney to me. Not even Hollywood could have scripted this day any better.
Aside from publishing Clubhouse Confidential, a memoir of his time in pinstripes, Squeegee has gone on to give back to the Bronx community. His Squeegee’s Foundation For Children’s Literacy was founded to assist kids from the community in finding greater access to reading opportunities, and he’s currently in negotiations to publish his second book, a children’s book called The Lucky Baseball. Squeegee will also be appearing in an independent film called Borderline Cartel, as well as a couple of web series. Last but not least, Squeegee’s web documentary, My Pastime, is set for release on YouTube next month.
But today, he’ll be celebrating Yankee history along with countless other fans–his celebrations will just include memories from closer to the action than most have ever come. He couldn’t be more grateful.