YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The “Handshake of the Century” may soon be bronzed and put on display in Youngstown, memorializing the day George “Shotgun” Shuba and Jackie Robinson met at home plate.
April 18, 1946. In his very first game as a mainstream professional baseball player, Jackie Robinson, in his second at bat, hits a home run. Youngstown’s “Shotgun” Shuba shakes his hand, a gesture that years later would be symbolic in the effort to better race relations in the United States.
The plan is to take what is now called the “Handshake of the Century,” make it a statue and put it in downtown Youngstown.
“I just think a lot of people would get to see it, I don’t know,” said Greg Gulas.
Gulas is a member of the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue committee. He would like to see a nearly 7-foot tall statue of the “Handshake of the Century” in a grassy area near the entrance to the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.
“I only wish George was around to see it because if he was he’d say, ‘They’re doing this for me?’ He’s that humble,” Gulas said.
“I didn’t realize it was that special, you know?” Shuba said in a previous interview.
Shuba grew up in Youngstown and went on to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
While being honored at a 2006 Youngstown State University game, Shuba talked about the handshake.
“I sort of thought it was something big because we had 25,000 people there and there must have been about 10 cameramen waiting for Jackie to cross home plate,” Shuba said.
But from 10 cameramen, only two pictures survived. One shows Robinson touching home plate while Shuba is shaking his hand. The other was taken just seconds before, with Robinson off the ground and again, the handshake.
It was the first handshake of a black and white player on a professional baseball field.
“George grew up on the west side of Youngstown at Chaney High School. He played with black people. There were blacks and whites playing together. It was nothing for them,” Gulas said. “What do you do when you hit a home run? The guy on deck shakes your hand. It was a normal thing to do.”
The committee formed to build the statue has commissioned sculptor Marc Mellon to do the work. He already has a prototype of what it will look like.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown said it’s a great idea.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to preserve history and for Youngstown to be a part of that history. Right [in] downtown Youngstown, for people to come and get a chance to look at that, I think it’s a great opportunity for us as a city,” Brown said.
The statue will cost $400,000, but the fundraising has already started. Visit the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue’s website if you’d like to donate.
The plan is to dedicate the statue on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of the “Handshake of the Century.”
“Shotgun” Shuba died five years ago. He was 89.
Gulas wrote a book about him called My Memories as a Brooklyn Dodger.