|Posted on January 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM|
By Michael Katz - My First Sportscard Memory
I can’t say that I remember seeing Tony Solaita, a marginal American League player in the days before inter-league play, ESPN, or even many nationally televised games. I do, however, remember his 1976 Topps card. That set was my favorite, with the little player in the lower left corner (some with the all-star logo that of course did not grace Tony’s card) and the player’s name and team. I remember Tony in part because most of the cards in that set were headshots while Tony was swinging a bat.
Tony’s baseball card really troubled me as a child. It was probably the first to trouble me. Looking at his statistics, we see that he played in a single game for the Yankees in 1968 and then did not reach the majors again until 1974. Even as a child I wondered what Tony did to deserve to spend five full seasons in the minors after his single at-bat for the Yankees. To this day I still do not know, and I am curious (courtesy of www.baseballreference.com I know that his single at-bat ended in a strikeout, but surely that did not lead to a five-year sentence in the minors).
I would like to say that things ended well for Tony, but I cannot. After bouncing around the major leagues for most of the 1970s, which included being traded from the Royals just as they started to dominate the AL West, he returned to his native American Samoa, where he died soon after his forty-third birthday and was buried in his front yard.
Tony did not accomplish much as a ballplayer, but at least he inspired a young card collector to a moment of sympathy. Wherever Tony is now, that has to count for something.