Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Youngstown breaking the color barrier

George Shuba, a lifelong Youngstown resident, served for seven seasons as utility outfielder and lefthanded pinch hitter for the Brooklyn Dodgers. His seven seasons included a World Series championship in 1955.

Shuba is often remembered for his symbolic role in breaking down major league baseball's tenacious "color barrier." In 1946, he was captured in a legendary photograph shaking hands with Jackie Robinson, when the two men were teammates for the Montreal Royals, a farm team of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. The moment was described as "the first interracial handshake" in North American baseball's recent history. Robinson then left to play for the Dodgers the following year, but not before winning the Little World series and being chased by exultant Montréal fans right to the train as he left. Wrote Sam Maltin, a stringer for the Pittsburgh Courier: "It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."

Shuba made his professional debut with the Dodgers on July 2, 1948.

At the peak of his playing career, Shuba delivered a pinch-hit homer in the 1953 World Series opener, which the New York Yankees won 9-5. Knee surgery, however, reduced his effectiveness after that season. Shuba played his final game Sept. 25, 1955.

Following his retirement, Shuba returned to Youngstown, where he lives today. A 2006 article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune noted that Shuba continues to take pride in the photograph of his groundbreaking handshake with teammate Robinson. A copy of the photo currently hangs behind his favorite living-room chair.

No comments: