The Obit For James Blomberg

Castañeda, 75, Rice instructor, coach

The Houston Chronicle Nov. 5, 2008

James A. Castañeda, a professor of Spanish at Rice University who served as a baseball and golf coach there, died Saturday. He was 75.

Castañeda died of an apparent heart attack after watching the Owls baseball team triumph over McNeese State University 21-2 in a fall-training exhibition game on the Rice campus.

"Rice lost a beloved, longtime member of the department of Hispanic studies and the athletic department," said Rice President David Leebron. "Jim's passion for Spanish literature and theater was matched by his love for baseball and golf. He led Rice to seven team tournament championships during his 15 years as golf coach."

Christopher J. Castañeda of Sacramento, Calif., said his father "loved Rice. It was like it was part of his family."

Born on April 2, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y., James Agustin Castañeda was the son of Ciro Castañeda and Edna Simcock Castañeda. Later, his stepfather was Carl Blomberg.

An outstanding student at an early age, Castañeda grew up dedicated to learning and sports, playing sandlot baseball and in high school in Brooklyn.

In the 1950s, he played baseball with the Brooklyn Cadets, an amateur team, and later with a farm team of the Baltimore Orioles.

Castañeda graduated with highest honors from Drew University in Madison, N.J., in 1954. He earned a master's degree in 1955 and a doctorate in 1958 at Yale University.

His teaching career began at Hanover College in 1958. In 1961, Castañeda became an assistant professor of Spanish at Rice and soon became involved in Rice athletics.

Even after entering the academic world, he continued playing baseball. In 1967 and 1971, Chris Castañeda said, his father took his family to Spain, where he researched Spanish literature of the 1500s and 1600s.

In his spare time, Castañeda played on Spanish baseball teams, his son said.

At Rice, he served first as freshman baseball coach and then as assistant varsity coach from 1967 to 1983. He was head golf coach from 1983 to 1998.

"Jim was a remarkable man. He was a great educator and a great coach," said Bobby May, former athletic director at Rice.

His favorite author was Miguel de Cervantes, whose "understanding of human nature is really impressive," Castañeda told a Rice publication in 1998. "I admire his idealistic view of life."

Castañeda wrote five books and numerous scholarly articles, his son said.

A full professor since 1967, he also was chairman of the department of classics, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish and was master of Will Rice College.

In addition to his son, he leaves his wife, Clara Luz Gutierrez Castañeda, of Houston; and stepdaughters Eyvette Lopez Hetherington and Michelle Lopez Varma, both of Houston, and Lara Gago of Dallas.

A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday at Reckling Park, the baseball stadium on the Rice campus.