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Field renamed for Shuba, known for handshake



Published: Wed, September 19, 2007 @ 2:00 a.m.

Chaney’s boys baseball team will begin playing

on the newly named field next season.

By ANGIE SCHMITT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — It was the stuff of little boys’ dreams.

A son of immigrants from Youngstown’s West Side goes on to athletic greatness, plays seven seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, including three World Series.

But George Shuba’s story took an unusual twist when Jackie Robinson, the man league officials had chosen to break professional baseball’s color barrier, joined his team in 1946. With one highly publicized handshake, Shuba, better known by his nickname “Shotgun,” came to be acknowledged more for sportsmanship than his sport.

It was a story that Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, thought her constituents on the West Side could best benefit. Thanks to her efforts, Shuba’s name, and story, were immortalized Tuesday in the renaming of the field where he learned to play ball.

Borts Ball Field now is called the George “Shotgun” Shuba Field at Borts Park.

Shuba, 82, returned to the field, five doors down from his boyhood home, for the ceremony in his honor.

“There’s nothing like being recognized in Youngstown,” said Shuba, who said he began hanging around at the field at age 5.

In his book, “My Memories As A Brooklyn Dodger,” Shuba says he didn’t think twice about rushing home plate to shake his teammate’s hand after Robinson’s first home run as a pro ballplayer. The gesture was captured on film and carried in newspapers across the country.

“Jackie had a great day that day,” said Shuba. “You would have thought that with all the pressure on him, he would have had a nervous breakdown.

“He turned around and led the league in hitting.”

Significance

The handshake was described by a New York Timesreporter as the first interracial handshake ever captured on film and viewed by a caring public, said Greg Gulas, co-author of Shuba’s autobiography.

Rimedio-Righetti said she hopes Shuba’s example will inspire other West Siders to greatness.

“Hopefully this one historic event will show the young people that we all need to work together,” said Rimedio-Righetti. Shuba’s story “bridges the gap not only between generations, it bridges the racial gap.”

The ceremony was filled with students from Shuba’s alma matter, Chaney High School. Band members and cheerleaders performed, and a group from the baseball team posed for a picture with Shuba.

Jim Mullally, high school athletic director, announced that next season the baseball team will compete on the newly christened George “Shotgun” Shuba Field.

“Once [the team] saw the field, they said, ‘We’re playing here,’” Mullally said.

Last year, no organized leagues played at Borts Ball Field because it was not maintained in time for the season, said Rimedio-Righetti. Before the ceremony, however, the field had been manicured, the infield had been repaired and the stands cleaned.

Rimedio-Righetti said she also has ordered a historical marker to tell visitors Shuba’s story.

In addition, Chaney Principal Bob Spencer said the school will begin a George Shuba Scholarship, given to a student who exemplifies the ideals his career embodied.

“He did it just because Jackie was his teammate,” Spencer said. “And that’s the basis of relationships that count.”

aschmitt@vindy.com


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