‘Shotgun’ George Shuba recounts his baseball life


The former Dodger’s baseball life is recalled in a new book.

By JOHN KOVACH

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

AUSTINTOWN — If you love baseball, especially the way it was played in the 1940s and 1950s, then you will love George “Shotgun” Shuba’s book, “My Memories as a Brooklyn Dodger.”

The book contains interesting stories from behind the scenes and the nostalgic history of the golden era of the game.

Shuba is now an 82-year-old who played 14 seasons of professional baseball, seven of them in the majors with the Brooklyn Dodgers beginning in 1948. He was a first-hand observer and friend of some of the most famous, historic and colorful characters to play the game.

With a sharp and vivid memory, the Youngstown native, a Chaney High graduate who lives in Austintown, has recreated his experiences through author Greg Gulas of Boardman.

The book contains humorous anecdotes that will keep the reader turning the pages.

The book was written by Gulas, a Campbell native and former Youngstown State University sports information director,

The 203-page book, with 13 pages of glossy black-and-white photos of Shuba’s baseball life and family, should become a valuable historical complement to author Roger Kahn’s 1970 book, “The Boys of Summer.”

Kahn’s book honored the famous cast of Brooklyn Dodgers players during that golden era, including Shuba, whom Kahn covered as a young reporter.

Kahn became friends with Shuba and visited him at his Austintown home in the late 1960s to interview him for “The Boys of Summer.”

And Kahn also wrote the forward for Shuba’s book with obvious affection for the “Shotgun,” emphasizing that the Shuba-Kahn relationship for him is a “story about friendship. I know nothing more important.”

Kahn also pointed out, “Injuries or no, The Shotgun could hit. He could really hit. After all, they didn’t call him ‘Water-Pistol’ Shuba, now, did they?”

Three World Series

Shuba was a member of three World Series teams with the Dodgers, including the 1955 World Series championship squad. He broke into the majors with Brooklyn in 1948 and remained with the team for the 1949-50-51-53-54-55 seasons until knee surgery reduced his effectiveness.

He was nicknamed “Shotgun” by sportswriter Bill Bingham of the Mobile (Ala.) Press in 1947 because of his ability to blast line drives.

Shuba had a career batting average of .259 on 211 hits in 814 trips with 125 RBIs, 106 runs scored and 45 doubles and 24 homers. His best year was in 1952 when he batted .305 (78-for-256) with nine homers, 40 RBIs and 40 runs scored.

But his biggest claim to fame and baseball history are two signature moments in the sport:

UHe is the first National League player to hit a pinch-hit home run in a World Series game (1953). It came in the opener against the New York Yankees against Allie Reynolds. Shuba is the third overall to perform such a feat.

UAnd he is the first white player to shake the hand of the first black player in professional baseball — Jackie Robinson — during a game. Shuba and Robinsonwere teammates with the Class AAA Montreal Royals during a game on April 18, 1946, against the Jersey City Giants at Roosevelt Stadium (Jersey City, N.J.) before 25,000 fans.

After Robinson got his first hit, a home run, and was crossing the plate, Shuba, who was standing in the on-deck circle, extended his hand with a smile to congratulate the also-smiling Robinson, and the handshake was caught by a photographer.

Famous handshake

The historic photo — the photographer never has been identified despite attempts by Shuba to do so — has become known as “A Handshake for the Century” and “The Handshake that Bridged Barriers,” and is credited and still is being credited with encouraging racial harmony.

The photo of the famous handshake graces the bottom half of the cover of Shuba’s book. The top half displays a photo of Shuba posing with Robinson and other Dodger teammates Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella. That photo was snapped during “Shuba Day” at Forbes Field in 1952 prior to a game with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Here I am a white man from Youngstown, Ohio, shaking the hand of a black man from Cairo, Ga. [via UCLA] in Jersey City, N.J., playing on a team that was north of our border during a racially-charged era where in my eyes, it was the absolute right thing to do,” writes Shuba in his book about the historic handshake.

“I am most proud to say that one of my greatest memories of the game [the handshake] and a lesson about life that I have never forgotten [Robinson’s courage and determination] came from my teammate, Jackie Robinson.”

But, “Without [wife] Rachel by his side, he might never have accomplished the many things that he accomplished.”

kovach@vindy.com

X “My Memories as a Brooklyn Dodger,” by George “Shotgun” Shuba as told to Greg Gulas, is available from Shuba’s Web site: www.georgeshuba.com. Or, call (330) 792-0068. The price is $20 plus shipping.

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