YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The group planning a statue in Youngstown to celebrate the historic 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson and George Shuba marked that event’s 74th anniversary Saturday by reporting major progress on the larger-than-life statue.
The statue’s sculptor is developing a clay model, standing nearly 7 feet tall, that will be used to cast the figure of Robinson, the first African American in mainstream professional baseball. Still under construction is the model for Shuba, the Youngstown native who was Robinson’s white teammate with the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate.
“While we’re still in the early stages of developing the statue, our progress on these models is very exciting,” said Marc Mellon, the Connecticut-based sculptor crafting the statue. “In the upcoming months I’ll be working on the George Shuba figure. When both figures are completed later this summer, we will first cast them in plaster, refine the surfaces, and then cast them in bronze.”
The 1946 handshake at home plate after a Robinson home run in his debut professional game has been hailed as the “handshake of the century,” as it marked the racial integration of pro ball, which helped accelerate the breakdown of racial barriers in other areas of American life.
Mellon is working with a group of community leaders to build and dedicate the statue near the Youngstown Amphitheatre downtown on April 18, 2021, the 75th anniversary of the historic handshake.
“We’ve made such great progress because the Youngstown community has stepped up big-time to support this statue,” said Ernie Brown, a retired Vindicator regional editor and co-chair of the statue project committee.
“The development of the two large models for the statue and the bronze casting all represent our donors’ dollars hard at work.”
The most prominent supporters of the statue so far are the Youngstown Foundation, McDonald Restaurants in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys and the J. Ford Crandall Foundation. In less than five months, the committee has raised about $130,000 of its $400,000 goal.
The statue itself will be cast by the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, N.Y., known worldwide for casting the Iwo Jima Memorial near Washington, D.C., and the Charging Bull in the New York financial district.
Mellon’s works in bronze have honored Pope John Paul II, President George H. W. Bush, President Barack Obama and many award-winning athletes.
“We’re very excited to have a top-shelf artist and a top-shelf foundry at work to commemorate one of the most important and under-rated moments in American history,” said Greg Gulas, co-chair of the project committee.
“When George Shuba stepped up to shake Jackie Robinson’s hand at home plate, at a time when racism was rampant in our country, he taught America an important lesson and made Youngstown very proud. The statue marking this moment will be a huge source of pride in Youngstown for generations to come.”
More information about the Robinson-Shuba statue is available at RobinsonShuba.org.
Pictured at top: Sculptor Marc Mellon works on a larger-than-life model of Jackie Robinson that will be used to cast the Robinson-Shuba handshake statue, set for dedication in Youngstown next year. At left is a model of the head of George Shuba of Youngstown, Robinson’s teammate with the Montreal Royals.