Story produced by Amiel Weisfogel. Editor: Carol Ross.
Creator of the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue have made 18 videos of statue donors and volunteers sharing the reasons they support the memorial planned for downtown Youngstown.
On another visual platform, a story that “CBS Sunday Morning” put together on the project is set to air at 9 a.m. today.
CBS crews filmed interviews with Herb Washington, a local McDonald’s restaurant operator and co-chair of the committee developing the statue, and Mike Shuba, son of the late George Shuba. He will be portrayed in the figure shaking hands with his teammate, baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
Another CBS crew captured footage of sculptor Marc Mellon working on the model for the larger-than-life bronze memorial in his studio in Redding, Conn.
The donor and volunteer support for the project has been growing.
Those sharing their sentiments in the 18 videos include Lou Zona, executive director of the Butler Institute of American Art; Darryl Anderson, network administrator for the city of Youngstown; and Frank Nolasco, president of the Curbstone Coaches, and members of the committee leading the statue project.
“This is a fun way to convey the grassroots support we’re generating, and we’re inviting all of our donors and volunteers to send us short videos we can publish on our YouTube channel, website, and social media,” Greg Gulas, co-chair of the statue project committee, said.
More information is available from the Fans page on the statue project website, www.robinsonshu ba.org/fans.
The statue, scheduled for dedication next year, celebrates the 1946 handshake of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American allowed in mainstream professional baseball, and George Shuba, his white teammate from Youngstown.
The pair shook hands at home plate after Robinson hit his first home run and after Shuba, the on-deck batter, noticed that neither of the two teammates who scored on the homer waited at home to congratulate Robinson.
“That 1946 handshake was huge and said a lot about Youngstown as a community where people respect and appreciate each other, regardless of their race,” Ernie Brown, another project committee co-chair, said. “We’re very excited about spotlighting that moment with a beautiful, larger-than-life bronze statue in Wean Park.”
Dedication of the statue is planned for April 18, the 75th anniversary of the Robinson-Shuba handshake. More information about the statue project, including opportunities to support it, can be found at www.rob insonshuba.org.
Jackie Robinson’s first home run for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Montreal farm team was a game-changer. What happened next was astonishing.
Correspondent Susan Spencer said, “This has been called the ‘handshake of the century.’ It sounds a little dramatic. Do you think that’s overstating it?”
“Well, we’ve had other important handshakes, internationally and here at home, but this was a harbinger of the civil rights movement to come,” said world-renowned sculptor and baseball fan Marc Mellon.
Robinson, of course, would go on to be a civil rights advocate after finishing his remarkable Hall of Fame baseball career. But first came that handshake: April 18, 1946, his debut as the only Black man to play in an all-White league.
“They wanted him to fail,” said Mellon.
So, no surprise, he said, that the other players didn’t even acknowledge Robinson’s first homer, all save the next batter up, George “Shotgun” Shuba.
Mellon said, “If you look at the photographs, you can see the pure joy of the moment. He didn’t think Black, White. As George was known to say in later life, ‘I woulda shaken his hand if he was Technicolor!'”
Mellon has studied every minute detail of those photos, as he works on a 7-foot-tall statue of the handshake.
“You have captured both the athleticism and the joy,” said Spencer.
“When you see it outdoors with the sun shining,” Mellon said, “it should just make you smile!”
When it’s finished, the bronze statue will stand in a park in Youngstown, Ohio – George Shuba’s hometown.
Back in 1946, that handshake, for Shuba, would have been something of a risk. “With his teammates, I would think so,” said Herb Washington, a businessman in the Youngstown area. “He may have gotten some jaded looks in terms of, ‘What are you doing?'”
“Why do you think he did it?” Spencer asked. “He didn’t have to do that.”
“I think he did it because it was the right thing to do,” said Washington, who is also a co-chair of the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue Committee.
Spencer asked, “You’ve been involved in a lot of charitable things. What was it particularly about this one that made you want to support it?”
“Jackie Robinson. Period,” he replied.
Washington himself played on the World Series-winning Oakland A’s in 1974. For him, this is personal: “Someone had to be first. Someone had to stand in the gap and take some unbelievable punishment and cruelty so that the next person may not have to endure as much.”
Spencer asked, “What would life have been like for Jackie Robinson at that time?”
“I can’t even begin to wrap my head around the weight that he must’ve had on his shoulders – not just for himself, but all people of color,” Washington replied.
Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, spoke with “. She said there were times when it was excruciating for Jackie: “And particularly when you’re being attacked, and you can’t respond.
“What we worried about, for instance, pitchers would throw at his head,” said Rachel. “I worried about him getting hurt.”
And with good reason: Robinson routinely received death threats. Rachel said, “I felt like it was us against the world, you know?”
It was in that atmosphere that George Shuba just did what came naturally.
“People have to remember that George didn’t ask to be the batter up,” said Shuba’s son, Mike. “And he did not know Jack was going to hit a home run. He always taught me as a young kid, if you’re ever put on the spot, do the right thing, and Everything works out fine.”
Mike said that the handshake photo was such a treasured keepsake, his dad displayed it in the family living room until the day he died.
Spencer said, “This was long before the civil rights movement, before Rosa Parks. In that context, it was, some people might think, a courageous thing to do.”
“Yes. I agree with you, yes,” said Mike. “Other members of the team, some players didn’t even want to bat after Jackie. There were other players, too, that refused to be teammates with Jackie. It’s sad to see that, but George and Jack became friends. And they showed America that America was maturing.”
Spencer asked Washington, “What do you hope this statue says to, say, the father with his kid who walks into the park, two years from now, and looks up and sees it?”
“I hope the father can explain to the kid what the statue represents and how, in that child’s lifetime, hopefully, racism and bigotry won’t exist,” he replied.
Sculptor Marc Mellon said, “Everything about it is uplifting. There is the dark backstory of why is this so significant? But it’s America emerging from the war, from time of segregation, with a realization that we can be better.”
… a realization as simple as reaching out a hand.