Statue celebrating Jackie Robinson-George Shuba handshake planned for downtown Youngstown
A statue commemorating the historic handshake between Jackie Robinson and George "Shotgun" Shuba of Youngstown is being planned for downtown Youngstown.
According to the release, The Economic Action Group and the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue Committee will aim to raise $400,000 to complete the statue.
The plan is to dedicate the statue on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of "the handshake of the century."
The handshake happened after Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major League Baseball player, hit his first major league home run. Shuba, a white teammate from Youngstown, shook Robinson's hand at home plate.
Robinson hit the home run in his second at-bat with two other players on base. The players that scored went into the dugout without waiting for Robinson. Shuba was on deck at the time.
"A handshake at home plate by players of different races is no big deal in America today, but in 1946 it was a historic moment," said Herb Washington, a local businessman, former Major League Baseball player and one of the co-chairs of the committee. "We want to memorialize that moment in a way that inspires people to relate more respectfully to those of other races. We need more Americans to follow the examples of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba."
"In our book, George is quoted as saying he didn't think at the time that shaking a black player's hand was a big deal," said Greg Gulas, a retired Youngstown State sports information director and another committee co-chair. "He had played with black and white guys at Chaney High School and in sandlot games in Youngstown for years. He shook Jackie's hand because he had just hit a three-run homer. George was proud to be Jackie's teammate for the Royals and the Dodgers, not because Jackie was black but because he was an incredible baseball player."
The statue would stand nearly 7 feet tall and would portray the iconic photo owned by George Shuba's son Mike. The group says the bronze statue would stand at a site in Wean Park near the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.
The handshake drew national attention in 1946 and continues to have additional waves of news coverage. A 2014 New York Times called the handshake “a simple, silent moment in baseball history.” MSNBC commentator Al Sharpton said George Shuba will “always be remembered for how he took the fight against racial injustice into his own hands with that handshake."
Mike Shuba, a special advisor for the committee, said the picture of the handshake was on display in the Shuba home since he was a child. It was the only piece of baseball memorabilia that George Shuba ever displayed.
“If my father were still around, he would be so thrilled and so proud,” Mike said. “That handshake with Jackie and the photo of it were among the highlights of his life.”
Marc Mellon, a sculptor who has made memorial statues for Pope John Paul II, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, and athletes like Michael Jordan and Mickey Mantle, has agreed to build the statue.
Jackie Robinson went on to play ten seasons in the MLB, ending his career with a .311 batting average and an MVP award.
Shuba played seven seasons in the MLB and finished his career with a .259 batting average.