REUNION 'Shotgun' Shuba at Dodgers' gala
He was a member of the Dodgers' first world championship team in 1955.
SPECIAL TO THE VINDICATOR
LOS ANGELES -- When the Los Angeles Dodgers play host today to the Houston Astros, the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first world championship team in franchise history will culminate during pre-game ceremonies at Dodger Stadium.
All 13 living members of that Brooklyn Dodger team are expected to be in attendance, including Youngstown-native George "Shotgun" Shuba, who was a member of three Dodger National League pennant winning teams (1952, 1953 and 1955) that faced the New York Yankees in the World Series.
"This is a very special day, one that we won't soon forget," said Shuba, who lives in Austintown. "Many of us gathered in New York for the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge and that was a special time as well.
"While quite a few teammates have since passed and won't be joining us for the celebration, some of their wives and family members will be in attendance and it will be so great to see them also," said Shuba. "We'll tell stories, share some laughs and also a few tears, but all in all it will have been one great trip down memory lane."
Considers himself fortunate
Shuba has always considered himself fortunate to be a part of such the Dodgers organization, calling the O'Malley family one of the greatest owners in all of sports.
"Walter [O'Malley] was very fair with me, an owner that I considered an outstanding friend," Shuba said. "His wife, Kay, had a great personality and was a very nice person. When the team was turned over to their children, Peter and Terry, the everyday operation never skipped a beat. The O'Malley family always made us feel like we were a part of their family and now, the McCourt family is like that as well."
That 1955 Dodgers boasted five players, a coach and a manager that made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella were Shuba's teammates, while Billy Herman, a coach who played with the Chicago Cubs and Dodgers, and manager Walter Alston were also Hall of Fame selections.
"[Sandy] Koufax was a bonus baby that they couldn't send back to the minors," Shuba noted. "He was wild at the beginning of his career but when he found his control, he punched his ticket into the hall of fame," said Shuba. "That 25-man roster was as good as any that won a World Series."
Recalling his teammates
Shuba reminisces about his teammates as if it were yesterday and they were just getting ready to play game seven of the Series.
"Pee Wee was a jokester, [Carl] Erskine our player rep and when I lived in the Bossert Hotel, had both Clem Labine and Johnny Podres close by because they, too, lived at the Bossert," he said.
Shuba had his share of memorable hits during the regular season and was even called upon by Alston to pinch hit for Carl Furillo, Andy Pafko and Reese. Yet it was Game 7 in which Shuba played a big part.
He pinch hit for Don Zimmer in the sixth inning and grounded out on a high curve off of the Yankees' Bob Grimm. Alston then moved Jim Gilliam from the outfield to replace Zimmer at second and instead of putting Shuba in the outfield, put Sandy Amoros in left and that is where history was made.
Amoros' catch late in the game preserved the 2-0 victory, giving the Dodgers their first World Series crown.
"Amoros is the one player that nobody seems to give credit to in the Series," said Shuba. "He was a lefty, moving to his right and if he doesn't stick his glove hand out and make the catch off of Yogi Berra's fly ball, we might not have won the seventh and deciding game. To me, his catch was the game winner and that is what people seem to forget. He was an excellent player and an even better person. The team might have gone on strike if Alston placed me in left."
Shuba's name is linked to World Series history where in the 1953 Fall Classic, he became the first National Leaguer and the second player ever (Berra was the first) to hit a pinch-hit home run.
Greatest memory of 1955
His greatest memory of the '55 season, however, didn't come because of a hit he had or a catch that he made, but rather something that occurred because of the season.
"I qualified for the pension plan by 21 days and that was the greatest milestone in my career. Having been sick the year before with a thyroid condition, everything was up in the air," he said. "To recover from that and then win the World Series as well, that was special."
When Shuba returns from the reunion with his teammates, he won't have much time to rest as he will head to Cooperstown with his family where the Baseball Hall of Fame will dedicate his well-documented photo with Jackie Robinson, "A Handshake for the Century."
It was on April 18, 1946 that Shuba and Robinson, as members of the Dodgers' top minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals, made sports history.
When Robinson homered against New Jersey that night it was Shuba who greeted him at the plate with a handshake. That photo captured the moment and has become known as the handshake that that broke the barriers in baseball and changed sports in our century forever.
XInformation on the Shuba-Robinson print can be obtained by calling Home Plate Productions at (330) 506-1122.