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James Castiglia; Redskins Player in '40s

James Castiglia, shown playing for Georgetown in 1941, signed with the Washington Redskins in 1947. He also briefly played professional baseball.
James Castiglia, shown playing for Georgetown in 1941, signed with the Washington Redskins in 1947. He also briefly played professional baseball. (Associated Press)
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By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2007

James Vincent Castiglia, 89, an insurance broker who played for the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1940s, died of endocrine and kidney disease Dec. 26 at Collingswood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rockville.

Mr. Castiglia was board chairman at Morrow & Brooks Ltd., the merged firm that succeeded his previous firm, Castiglia & Johnson Ltd. The Million-Dollar Roundtable member retired in 1984.

His heyday as an athlete was in high school in the 1930s in his home town of Passaic, N.J., at Georgetown University in the late 1930s and, briefly, in two professional sports just before and after World War II.

He was a New Jersey All-State athlete in football, baseball and basketball in 1936 and moved to Washington to attend Georgetown. He led the Georgetown football teams on a 23-game winning streak from 1938 through 1940 and played in the 1941 Orange Bowl game against Mississippi State University in his senior year. Georgetown lost.

A second-round draft choice by the Philadelphia Eagles, the 200-pound six-footer played one season, then was recruited to play baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics. A catcher, he had a .389 batting average.

His baseball career was cut short after 16 games when he volunteered for the Army during World War II. He served as a training officer in the United States and was discharged as a captain.

After the war, he returned to football, playing fullback with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1945 and 1946 seasons. The next year, he played two games in the All-America Football Conference with the Baltimore Colts, then was dropped. He signed with the Washington Redskins for $5,000, seeking to prove himself.

In November 1947, Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich described the "heavy-footed marauding of Jim the Jolter Castiglia. . . . Twenty-eight times they gave Castiglia the ball, a weighty day's work in the pro league and he stomped out 85 yards in gains -- no mean feat with the Redskins' line as well as the Steelers' line to contend with."

Povich reviewed Mr. Castiglia's pro-football employment history, concluding that his Redskins teammates quickly gave the walk-on their respect.

"The Redskins did me a favor taking me on when I was released by the Colts," Mr. Castiglia said after that season ended. "In return, I did them a favor. I'd have played for $5 a game, instead of what they gave me, just to prove to myself and Washington I wasn't washed up. Now the Redskins and I are even."

In 1948, his last season, he doubled his Redskins salary to $10,000. He finished his career with an average of 4.2 yards per carry.

He joined his father-in-law in a moving business, Kane Van Service. A decade later, Mr. Castiglia sold the business and went into insurance.

He kept his hand in semipro baseball, playing for the Heurich Brewers for several years, became president of the Touchdown Club in 1958 and was the first president of the Redskins Alumni Association. He was a founding member of an NFL fund that helped needy ex-athletes.

He was the first dual-sport athlete inducted into Georgetown's Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in football and baseball. He briefly coached football at Bullis Prep and baseball at Catholic University. In 1956, he won a local handball championship.

He also was a member of Columbia Country Club, where he played golf, a past chairman of Friends of Georgetown Center for Sight and a member of the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda.

His wife of 62 years, Catherine Kane Castiglia, died in 2005.

Survivors include nine children, Kathleen Greeves of Leesburg, Susan Dunlap of Lexington, Va., Clare O'Shea of Chesapeake Beach, Va., Mary Christine Worch of Rockville, Frances Scoville of Binghamton, N.Y., Eileen Castiglia of Brunswick, Va., James V. Castiglia Jr. of Mission Viejo, Calif., Marian Huff of Herndon and Ann Therese Worch of Damascus; 20 grandchildren; and 30 great-grandchildren.


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