Recently, I came across a wonderfully designed Topps ‘Blake Street Bombers’ card out of 2021 Archives. The card commemorates the mid to late-90s sluggers who lit up Coors Field’s thin air and amassed hundreds of home runs in the process. The card features 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, and Dante Bichette, father of rising baseball star, Bo Bichette. Immediately, I wondered why fellow Blake Street Bombers, Ellis Burks and Vinny Castilla were left off the list. Unfortunately, unlike the ‘Bash Brothers’ of Oakland, there has never been an official line-up to the Blake Street Bombers. They have been featured on cards in the past but with various ensembles.
One thing is for sure, Larry Walker absolutely deserves his place on the 2021 Topps Blake Street Bombers card as he is the only member of the group in the Hall of Fame, as well as the only one to win an M.V.P. award (’97). Now here is where things get interesting. Out of the group, Walker has the most home runs as a Rockies player (258). Coming in a close second is none other than Vinny Castilla with 239. Out of all the Blake Street Bombers, Vinny Castilla was the only consistent slugger, having hit 40+ home runs three times. Walker did it just once, as did Burks, Bichette, and Galarraga. Even if you take an average of home runs per season, Castilla still beats out Bichette and Burks.
I think you probably get my point by now. The 2021 Topps Blake Street Bombers card definitely short-changed Vinny Castilla by choosing to include Dante Bichette, who was Colorado’s 4th best slugger during the Blake Street Bombers years. Bichette may have even been the worst of the group had Ellis Burks not left Colorado after only parts of five seasons, while Bichette played in parts of seven. It appears Topps chose to include Dante solely to have him connect with fans and collectors of Bo Bichette. While Bichette Sr. certainly had more swag and personality than Vinny Castilla, the numbers do not lie. Vinny Castilla was the most consistent and prolific slugger of the Blake Street Bombers.
It should also be noted that while Castilla will never get the recognition Larry Walker received throughout his playing career and post-retirement and perhaps rightfully so, it is clear that Castilla absolutely loved the game of baseball more than all of the other Bombers combined. After playing his last Major League game in 2006 at the age of 38 and unable to sign with a new team, Vinny packed his bags and went to Mexico where he participated in another 4 seasons of baseball before retiring, tearfully, at age 42. With his playing days far behind, today Castilla is a Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Colorado Rockies and mentors young players.
It’s time for Topps to put some respek on Vinny’s name!