Shuba-Robinson Statue Is Installed in Emotional Moment

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mike Shuba looked at the statue of his father and Jackie Robinson after it was lowered onto its pedestal early this morning, and became emotional.

The bronze statue in Wean Park depicts his father, Youngstown native George “Shotgun” Shuba, shaking hands with the baseball legend who cracked the professional game’s color barrier. The moment came as Robinson approached home plate after hitting a home run, and has since been immortalized as a tribute to racial harmony.

For Shuba, the scene has always been a part of his life, and watching the statue being installed about an hour after dawn brought on a flood of memories.

“I thought about my father,” Shuba said, as he stood at the memorial this morning. “All that time we spent on the road traveling across the country, talking [to organizations and children] about what this moment represents.

“I was excited to see this historical event happening in Youngstown, Ohio. It was very emotional to see it put in place today.”

George “Shotgun” Shuba died in 2014. Robinson died in 1972.

Marc Mellon, the Connecticut sculptor who designed and cast the seven-foot statue, was also on hand for Friday’s installation. The installation was a long time coming for Mellon, who worked on it for two years.

The statue, he said, represents history – but also much more. Mellon is looking forward to seeing the role it will play in the future.

“As amazing as it was to see it put in its spot today, when people see it with kids around it, and they see the genuine mutual respect and admiration [the ball players had for each other]… It shows us the way,” Mellon said.

The statue depicts a moment that took place 75 years ago – April 18, 1946 – during a game between the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and a team from Jersey City, N.J. It was Robinson’s first at-bat as a professional player. As he approached home plate after hitting a three-run home run, only George Shuba, the on-deck batter, extended his hand in congratulations.

It was a time of pronounced racial discrimination and animosity. A photograph of the moment became iconic and dubbed “the handshake of the century.”

The $400,000 statue will be formally dedicated on July 17, at the start of the Youngstown State University Summer Festival of the Arts in Wean Park, which is adjacent to Covelli Centre, downtown. After it was installed this morning using a massive crane, the statue was covered up with a tarp to await its unveiling.

The piece of art is the centerpiece of an area that includes seating, plaques, lighting and landscaping. Work remains to be done at the area, but it will be complete by July 17.

Kate Spires of BSHM Architects, Youngstown, designed the area around the statue. The company donated its services to the project.

With three rows of seating perched on a small hill behind the statue, the monument area is reminiscent of a baseball stadium. It’s intended to be a place where visitors and students can linger to contemplate the handshake.

A circular area surrounding the base of the statue pedestal will be finished with red clay “infield dirt” – the same type that is used in professional baseball parks. Spires said it will also help the water drainage system.

Lighting will be inset around the base of the statue to “up light” the work of art, Spires said. Lighting fixtures are also inlaid into the concrete seating, and the entire area will bathed in light from fixtures mounted on two poles, Spires said.

The area will be finished with drought-proof perennial plants.

A plaque bearing the narrative of the moment, and quotes from both Robinson and Shuba, will be mounted on a concrete structure to one side.

Mike Shuba, who lives in the Mahoning Valley, is proud of the statue and its environs.

“This is a world-class design here,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest Jackie Robinson statue sites, and it will be a wonderful place to reflect on the moment, to teach about doing the right thing.”

Pictured: Mike Shuba, son of George “Shotgun” Shuba, and sculptor Marc Mellon sit at the base of the statue in Wean Park. Mellon created the statue, which depicts the famed handshake between “Shotgun” Shuba, a Youngstown native, and Jackie Robinson.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.