City Approves Site Plan for Robinson-Shuba Statue

,YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The city’s design review committee this morning approved the site plan for the Robinson-Shuba statue, clearing the way for work to begin on the project by the end of the year.

“We could start digging foundations before the ground freezes this year or next spring,” Kate Spires, an architect with BSHM Architects in Youngstown, told the committee. “The statue will be going to the foundry to be cast this fall.”

The Robinson-Shuba statue commemorates what is likely the first interracial handshake in modern professional baseball. On April 18, 1946, Youngstown native George “Shotgun” Shuba greeted teammate Jackie Robinson as he crossed home plate after clobbering a three-run homer. Both played for the Montreal Royals, then a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. A photograph that appeared in The New York Times the following day forever memorialized the moment.

The statue, created by Connecticut sculptor Marc Mellon, is based on the famous photograph. 

Robinson became the first black player in modern Major League baseball to break the color barrier when he was called up to the Dodgers the following year. Shuba would also join the Dodgers several years later.

Officials hope to unveil the statue on the 75th anniversary of “The Handshake of the Century,” as the event has been dubbed, on April 18.

The seven-foot-tall sculpture would be located on the east side of the Market Street Bridge at Wean Park, near the parking lot of the Covelli Centre. A promenade extending from the west side of the park under the bridge serves as one entrance point to the work. However, a pathway extending from the promenade would be widened and its angle reflecting the third base line toward home plate, Spires says. 

“What we’ve done is kind of recreate the scene,” she said. “When a visitor comes off the promenade, they are essentially walking the line that Jackie Robinson ran.”

Other features of the sculpture include new landscaping and plant beds, ambient lighting, bronze lettering, terraced seating facing the Mahoning River and seating facing the downtown. Signage embedded in concrete would display the name of the statue in bronze lettering as well as a bronze plaques that explain the historical significance of the event and honor those who donated to the project. 

“I just want to commend the committee and everyone involved in this statue,” said First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver. “I think it’s exactly what this community needs and what this country needs.”

The project has attained national attention and was featured in a segment broadcast on CBS Sunday Morning Sept. 27. 

The committee also approved additional details of a large abstract mural project sponsored by Youngstown State University now underway on a 136-foot wall along Andrews Avenue. Art students are currently working on the mural.

“It’s still going well,” said Dragana Crnjak, art professor at YSU. The goal is to finish the entire wall where it meets Federal Street downtown, she said. 

Pictured: A rendering of the Jackie Robinson-George Shuba statute and the area around it.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.