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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #482, Tony Solaita (Article 89)

by Paul Semendinger

(Continuing a series…)

***



In 1968, Tony Solaita was a Yankee for all of one game. One game.

In that game, Tony played first base. But he didn’t just play first base. He took over for a legend. For a least a few moments, Tony Solaita walked in the footsteps of a giant.

***

The date was September 16, 1968.

The Yankees were in Detroit playing the eventual World Champion Tigers. The game was getting long, the Tigers were up 9-0 after five innings. In the top of the sixth, the Yankees scored a run. One run…

With one out, Mickey Mantle singled. Roy White then doubled Mantle to third. Bill Robinson then hit a sacrifice fly that scored Mantle. That would be the Yankees only run of the game and for Mickey Mantle, that was also the end of his night.

When the Yankees took the field for the bottom of the sixth, Tony Solaita was playing first base, taking over for Mickey Mantle.

In that game Solaita came to the plate once. With two outs in the top of the eighth, Solaita came to the plate against John Hiller. Solaita struck out.

And that was that.

Tony Solaita would never play a game as a Yankee again.

***

For Tony Solaita, it probably looked as though he might never play in the Major Leagues again after that one brief appearance.

He didn’t play in the big leagues for the rest of the 1968 season.

Or in 1969.

Or 1970.

He didn’t make it to the big leagues in 1971 or 1972.

Or even in 1973…

But, in 1974, he arrived again, this time as a member of the Kansas City Royals. This time, once he arrived, he planned to stay a while. Solaita would play in the Major Leagues through the 1979 season.

***

Tony Solaita’s trip back to the big leagues was not a straight line. At all.

After leaving the Yankees, he played with the White Sox organization, went back to the Yankees, was traded to the Pirates, and then was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 1973 Rule 5 Draft.

This was a long trip…and the traveling didn’t stop.

Solaita played for the Royals in 1974 and 1975. During the 1976 season, he was traded to the California Angels. He would play with the Angels through the 1978 season. In 1979, Solaita played for both Canadian teams beginning with the Montreal Expos and ending with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Solaita’s Major League career ended with that 1979 season.

Over 525 games, Tony Solaita batted .255/50/203. It was a nice career.

***

But in 1980, Tony Solaita went to Japan and became a star playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters. In four Japanese seasons, Solaita blasted 155 homers.

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