Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Card #73: Eddie (Buddy) Solomon

Who Can It Be Now?

Eddie Solomon Jr. a/k/a Buddy J Solomon was born on February 9, 1951 in Perry, Georgia. Eddie grew up in Warner Robins and graduated from Warner Robins High School in 1969. He played semi-pro baseball in his hometown after high school until a scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers saw him playing and signed him after the draft on July 1, 1969.  

He did not look to be a great acquisition immediately, struggling in his first season in professional baseball in Ogden, Utah.  No matter -- the Dodgers moved him up quickly to the Florida State League in 1970, where he pitched far better in many respects, finishing with a 2.37 ERA in 156 innings (against a league ERA for that league of 3.00, a number inflated by the independent DeLand Sun Caps putting up a 4.02 ERA).  

Still, that was a good enough season for Solomon to move up to then Double-A Albuquerque in the Dixie Association for 1971.  There, Solomon's results again were quite good generally, as he put up a 3.02 ERA against a league average of 3.24 and had a K/BB ratio of 2.32 versus a league average of 1.82.  

Solomon split 1972 between now Triple-A Albuquerque and Double-A El Paso, struggling mightily at both stops.  As a result, he spent most of 1973 and 1974 in Triple-A at Albuquerque.  He did receive a cup of coffee from the Dodgers in September of 1973, when he gave up 5 earned runs (3 homeruns) in 6-1/3 innings.  He was called up again by the Dodgers a couple of times in 1974 as well -- for one appearance on July 27 in a 10-0 blowout by the Braves, another on August 18 in a 10-3 loss to the Pirates, another on September 3 in a 9-5 loss to the Giants, and then again for his first major league save on October 2 (the last day of the season) for the eventual National League Champions.  He even made an appearance in the one game that the Dodgers lost in the NLCS, closing out a 7-0 loss against the Pirates with two scoreless innings.

In 1975, Solomon again failed to make the opening day roster for the Dodgers.  The Dodgers finally decided on May 2, 1975 to include Solomon in a trade to the Cubs along with Geoff Zahn in exchange for Burt Hooton.  It's pretty clear that the Dodgers got the better end of that deal, since Solomon lasted just 7 innings in Chicago and Zahn was released by the Cubs after the 1976 season while Hooton spent 10 years in Chavez Ravine, finishing with a 112-84 record.

As I said, Solomon lasted just 7 innings in Chicago.  That was because he spent just two-and-a-half months in the Cubs organization.  He was traded to the Cardinals on July 22, 1975, in exchange for pitcher Ken Crosby.  Crosby spent all of 20-1/3 innings with the Cubs (giving up 19 earned runs but winning 1 game), so the Cubs lost a trade again, and that is despite the fact that, by May of 1977, Solomon had been traded again -- this time to the Atlanta Braves.

When he came to the Braves in 1977, it was basically a homecoming for Solomon.  He treated it that way.  Part of homecoming was to ask everyone to call him "Buddy Jay."  Why?  As he put it in a news story, "That's what everybody called me when I was growing up in Perry. I figured the people back home would remember me if other people started calling me Buddy Jay."

The Braves gave Buddy Jay a chance to pitch in the major leagues without being yo-yoed back and forth between Triple-A and the majors.  1977 was a disaster in many respects, as Solomon finished with a 4.57 ERA that was deceptively low -- in 88-2/3 innings, Solomon allowed 64 runs to score, but fully one-third of those runs -- 21 of them -- were unearned. To be fair, that Braves team was horrible.  They finished 61-101 (which was deserved), had a 17-game losing streak, and had three managers -- Dave Bristol, Vern Benson, and then-crackpot club owner (now, apparently, well respected philanthropist) Ted Turner.

Things seemed to be going well for Solomon in Atlanta.  While the team was bad, Solomon was in his home state and in the starting rotation.  But, then the Braves sent him off to Pittsburgh only a few days before the end of spring training in exchange for a minor leaguer to be named later.  What happened?

The March 30, 1980, headline on The Pittsburgh Press said it all: "Solomon Trouble, Atlanta Admits". Atlanta's GM, John Mullen, sent Solomon to Pittsburgh, he said, because Solomon had engaged in what the newspaper called "a midnight foray of destruction" and called the trade one that the Braves had made "for Eddie's own good and for the good of the ball club." In another story in the same newspaper, Mullen said that "[t]his isn't the first incident, although the others weren't as serious."

What he did was going to the pool at the Sheraton Inn -- the team hotel -- at midnight and shattered a few of the custom-made lighting globes around the pool.  Let's let the newspaper tell the story:

Later, Solomon and his unidentified [male] friend were reported to have gunned their Continental through the hotel's parking lot, narrowly missing the hotel's general manager and a policeman as they departed.  
According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, the two men were later involved in other incidents of disorderly conduct around West Palm Beach and at Days Inn, where the team's minor league prospects are quartered.  
From other sources it was learned that Solomon had threatened one of the Braves' minor league prospects.  
So, that was probably a bad idea.  

Solomon's stay in the Steel City was not supposed to be a long one, as he only filling in for the Pirates while Rick Rhoden and Don Robinson were on the DL. Instead, he stayed on the Pirates the entire season.  Granted, he had one stretch where he did not pitch for three weeks, but he did not record any stats in the minor leagues that year or in 1981.  Indeed, 1981 was his best season in the majors, as Solomon finished 10th in pitcher Wins Above Replacement, tied with Rick Camp.

The Pirates kept Solomon on their team until June of 1982, when the opportunity to pick up utilityman Jim Morrison from the Chicago White Sox proved too great of a lure.  That, and Solomon's sudden inability to pitch did not help -- he finished his Pittsburgh career with a 2-6 record in 1982 with a 6.75 ERA and 9 home runs allowed in just 46-2/3 innings.   Indeed, just before the trade, Solomon was replaced in the starting rotation by reliever Enrique Romo.

Thus, Solomon packed his bags for Chicago.  The White Sox did not give him much of an opportunity to right his ship, either -- designating him for assignment for the team to make room for Richard Barnes in early July. 

After being DFA'd, Solomon never again saw the major leagues.  He stayed with the White Sox organization by reporting to Appleton in the Single-A Midwest League in 1982, pitching in four games there.  Then, in 1983, he hooked on with the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate at Columbus, where he appeared in 7 games.  Those were his last seven professional games.

Mustache Check? Solomon is sporting what appears to be the beginnings of a mustache on this card -- but I think that's just the lighting on this scan that makes it look thin.  He most definitely rocked the 'stache in '82.

Nanu Nanu

This card was Eddie Solomon's last Topps card.  Unlike Rick Auerbach on card #72 and off the strength of his 1981 season, Solomon appeared in all three of the major release American sets in 1982.  But, like Auerbach, Solomon has never appeared on a baseball card since 1982.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.

Eddie Solomon was not a pitcher that made any impression on me as a kid in 1982, and frankly I knew nothing about Solomon even when I saw his card.  

Solomon did not stay long on this earth after his baseball career was over.  On January 12, 1986, Solomon was driving alone at about 3:45 AM in Macon, Georgia, when his car slammed into a utility pole, struck a chain link fence, and overturned.  Solomon was thrown from the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.  

A commenter on the Cardboard Gods blog, "boomkatte", apparently knew Mr. Solomon on a personal level. That commenter's words are reproduced here in full:

I knew Eddie on a more personal level.  Eddie had a sense of humour and enjoyed joking around.  A life out of balance? He had a wife and three children, whom he loved very much. Eddie participated in charitable causes. Eddie was concerned about what he would do after he no longer played baseball, he confided to me.  He was considering studying social work.  I was deeply saddened to hear of his tragic death, and will always miss his friendship[.] He was a true friend. 
And a second comment also from boomkatte:
Eddie was/is called “Buddy J” by some of his family. That’s more likely than not why he asked to be called “Buddy.” He was a warm man, and I remember how much he loved his children, and his then young son, “Mingo.” He was very proud of them, and it’s very sad he was unable to watch them grow into adults. Eddie had a lot of potential and was concerned about what he would do after he no longer was in the major leagues. He hadn’t gone to college, but wanted to pursue social work and working with underprivileged children. He was a kind man, and loved his “bunion” on his foot! Laughing here remembering that! Eddie didn’t go for the bling or the glitz himself. He was an insightful man, concerned for the future. No disrespect taken. We only sometimes know these people, as you mentioned, from a picture on a card. We forget that there is an entire person behind that face, an entire personality away from the public world. I was privileged to know THAT Eddie. He could be quiet in public, but his sense of humor was intact. His birthday is tomorrow, and in his new life, may he celebrate in light and happiness.

May he rest in peace.

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