New 7-Foot Bronze Memorial in Youngstown Will Celebrate Unity Across Racial Lines
Planned for two years as a tribute to teamwork and unity across racial lines, the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue will be unveiled Saturday in downtown Youngstown.
The $450,000 statue project marks the 1946 handshake of the color barrier-breaking Jackie Robinson and his teammate, George Shuba, after Robinson hit a three-run homer in his first minor league game. Shuba, a Youngstown native, stepped up to congratulate Robinson after neither of the two teammates who scored on the hit waited at home plate.
The handshake is believed to be the first among black and white players on a mainstream professional baseball field.
“The important message of this stunning statue is that race should never separate us – not on a baseball diamond, not anywhere,” said Ernie Brown, co-chair of the committee that developed the memorial. “The statue site will be a great place for reflection and programming that guide us to treat people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Greg Gulas, another co-chair of the statue committee, added, “George Shuba’s gesture is a source of great pride here in Youngstown. By stepping up to shake Jackie Robinson’s hand, George reflected his Youngstown upbringing and set an example for future generations. In that moment, these two showed us what life can be like when people from different races are truly on the same team.”
The statue will be dedicated at 9 a.m. Saturday at its home in Wean Park, a new riverfront park alongside the Mahoning River in downtown Youngstown.
Standing nearly 7 feet tall, the bronze statue was crafted by Marc Mellon, a noted sculptor whose works have honored Pope John Paul II, U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, Elie Wiesel and many others in world affairs and sports. The statue was cast by the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, N.Y., the shop known for casting the Iwo Jima Memorial near Washington, D.C., and the Wall Street Bull in New York.
At the time of the handshake, Robinson and Shuba played for the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They later played together for the Dodgers, including on two World Series teams.
Shuba died in 2014 at 89 years old. His son, Mike, was involved in the statue development effort and will speak at Saturday’s unveiling ceremonies. Robinson died at 53 in 1972.
Herb Washington, a pinch runner for the Oakland Athletics in the 1970s and owner of several McDonald’s Restaurants in the Youngstown area, will also speak at Saturday’s event. His restaurants were among the largest donors to the statue fundraising campaign.
Also present Saturday will be representatives of the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation in Portland, Ore. The foundation provided the statue’s largest donation after one of its leaders saw a story about it on a television news show.
More information about the handshake and statue are available at www.robinsonshuba.org.
Photo caption: The Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue was lowered into place Friday, July 9, and covered. It will be unveiled at 9 a.m Saturday, July 17.