Editorial: A meaningful message comes with new statue


The planning, creation and unveiling of the commemorative Jackie Robinson-George Shuba “Handshake for the Century” statue in downtown Youngstown has been underway and anticipated for many, many months.

Saturday’s unveiling proved it was well worth the wait.

… The statue’s meaning goes so much deeper than the artwork itself, erected in a beautiful setting near the Covelli Centre in the new Raymond John Wean Foundation Park.

The larger-than-life statue, created by sculpture artist Marc Mellon, commemorates a significant moment not only in baseball history, but in American history.

The inspiring handshake took place April 18, 1946, when Jackie Robinson began his professional baseball career as the first ever African American to play Major League Baseball.

Robinson was beginning play with the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate. The first game with the Royals was a major media event in New Jersey against the Jersey City Giants, with a huge crowd in the stands, and the city’s schools ordered closed to mark the occasion.

In his second at-bat, with two other Royals on base, Robinson hit a home run. Both teammates who scored on the homer went into the dugout without waiting for Robinson to congratulate him.

Robinson’s other teammate, George “Shotgun” Shuba, from Youngstown was on deck. Without hesitation, Shuba stepped up to shake Robinson’s hand just as the future Hall of Famer crossed home plate, as is customary in baseball. The moment was captured in a landmark photograph, now owned by Mike Shuba of Youngstown, George’s son, as the first handshake of black and white players on a professional baseball diamond.

… During Saturday’s dedication ceremony, George Shuba’s son, Michael, read words his now-deceased father had once written: “To shake his (Robinson’s) hand after his first hit ever, a home run, was an honor that I will never forget, as that was the day professional baseball changed forever.”

At a time when statues all across our nation are being torn down because of the pain and divisiveness they represent, we all should have an even greater appreciation that the “Handshake for the Century” statue represents racial harmony, equality and respect.

— Youngstown Vindicator, July 18