This project centered on building and installing a statue in downtown Youngstown to celebrate what was called a “Handshake for the Century.”
Project leaders knew that the larger-than-life statue, commemorating the 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American Major League Baseball player, and George “Shotgun” Shuba, his white teammate from Youngstown, OH, would inspire better relations among people of different racial backgrounds.
The statue portrays the handshake as captured in a landmark photograph (see image above), now owned by Mike Shuba, George’s son, and is located near the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre for high visibility.
Robinson enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers, but he played previously with the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, after a stint in the “Negro Leagues.” Robinson’s first game with the Royals against the Jersey City Giants was a major media event in New Jersey, with a huge crowd in the stands and the city’s schools closed to mark the occasion.
In his second at-bat, with two other Royals on base, Robinson hit a home run. However, neither of the two teammates who scored on the homer, courtesy of Robinson, waited at home plate to congratulate him.
But Shuba, who was on deck, noticed and stepped right up to shake Robinson’s hand just as the future Hall of Famer was crossing home plate. The photo captured that inspirational moment — the first handshake of black and white players on a professional baseball diamond.
‘The handshake’ that became a national story…
The handshake drew additional waves of national news coverage in 1996, marking its 50th anniversary, and again in 2014, when George Shuba passed away. A 2014 New York Times story 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, who serves as a special advisor to the statue project committee, said the framed picture of “the handshake” graced the living room of the family’s home since he was a child and was the only piece of baseball memorabilia his father ever displayed.
In order to pay homage to this moment in time, our team has enshrined the handshake in Youngstown history with a larger-than-life bronze statue of the two men – forever locked hand-to-hand. The statue was dedicated and unveiled on July 17, 2021, in Youngstown’s Wean Park, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the handshake.
The statue not only represents pride in Youngstown for its place in promoting equality, but will remind generations to come of the importance that unity plays across racial lines. The legacy Shuba and Robinson left behind is a testament to the Youngstown area and the power of racial harmony and inclusion.