Tony Solaita

Tolia ‘Tony’ Solaita

Nu’uuli, Tutuila, American Samoa

First Samoan to play professional Baseball in the United States. Solaita was a Major League Baseball player for the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, California Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, and Montreal Expos between 1968 and 1979. He also played four seasons in Japan for the Nippon-Ham Fighters from 1980 to 1983.

Solaita attended Mira Costa College in Oceanside, California. He was signed to his first contract off campus by New York Yankee scout – Dolf Camilli.

When Solaita began his pro career in 1965, he didn’t show his power for a couple of years, although his .324 mark led the Gulf Coast League in 1966, but the next year he lifted his home run total to 14. In 1968 came the breakthrough. Solaita joined High Point-Thomasville in the Single-A Carolina League, playing under career baseball man Jack McKeon. He clouted 51 homers for the Hi-Toms, including two in the playoffs–more than any other player in Organized Baseball. Solaita was voted Topps Minor League Player of the Year, and his reward was a chance to play at Yankee Stadium.

Solaita also played most of the 1969 season on loan to two White Sox farm clubs. He then returned to the top Yankees affiliate, Syracuse, but did not get the call-up he fully deserved in 1970.

In February 1973, Solaita was traded to the Pittsburgh chain for 14-year minor-leaguer George Kopacz. With the Charleston Charlies, he got his career back on track, and then the benevolent Jack McKeon interceded. McKeon had moved up to manage the Royals that year, and in December they drafted Solaita off the Charleston roster. The manager would later state, “Tony ranks among the top two or three players I have managed when it comes to on- and off-the-field considerations.”

1975, he had 16 homers in 231 at-bats, the best ratio in the American League, and second only to Dave Kingman in the majors. On September 7 that year, Solaita became the first player to hit three in a single game at Anaheim Stadium, driving all of them over the centerfield fence.

During the winter of 1993, the Tony Solaita Baseball Field was expanded and renovated, with a grand re-opening in March 1994
Inspiration behind the launch of American Samoa Baseball Association in 1991

First Samoan to play professional Baseball in the United States

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