By Greg Gulas
The retired major leaguer says today’s players are worth the money they receive.
BOARDMAN — October is the favorite time of year for Youngstown’s George “Shotgun” Shuba.
The local slugger, who made a name for himself as the first National Leaguer to register a pinch-hit home run in the World Series, readily admits that today’s players are bigger and stronger than the players from his era.
Speaking to the weekly Curbstone Coaches membership Monday at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, he added they are also without question, worth the bottom line on their contract.
“If it weren’t for [former union executive director] Marvin Miller, I just don’t know where the players would be today when comparing the salaries of other professional sports teams,” Shuba said. “Prior to his arrival in Major League Baseball, he represented the United Steelworkers of America, always making sure that they were compensated their fair share while being protected from any wrongdoing by management.
“He [Miller] is someone who belongs in Cooperstown, simply because of his fairness and the way that he helped change the pay structure of the national pastime,” Shuba said.
Shuba, who was one-half of the famous photo of the first interracial handshake ever captured in sports, actively campaigned for former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to be considered for inclusion into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When O’Malley was inducted into the shrine this past July, “Shotgun” was on hand to witness the ceremony.
“The team would have still been in Brooklyn, and so would the San Francisco Giants had the powers to be just listened to Mr. O’Malley’s idea,” Shuba said. “He wanted to build a new stadium on top of the New York subway system for easy access by the fans, and hoped to rent space to various shops and stores that he envisioned serving the public on stadium property.
“When that idea was nixed by Robert Moses, the Commissioner of the New York Parks Commission, then Mr. O’Malley had no choice other than to take and move his beloved Bums to the West Coast.
“I am shocked, but at the same time fully understand why it took so long for him to be honored,” he said.
A Yankees fan while growing up on Youngstown’s West Side, the first game that Shuba witnessed in person was between the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees on July 17, 1941.
That day the Indians, highlighted by a pair of great back-handed fielding gems by third baseman Kenny Keltner, stopped Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
“Joe DiMaggio was a great player, but when I saw him play it reminded me of a local sandlot star; Paul Birkholtz. It was like watching the same person play,” Shuba said.
Shuba said that Harry Chozen, a teammate of his with the Mobile (Ala.) Bears, authored a 49-game hit streak of his own that was every bit as impressive as DiMaggio’s.
“Harry was an excellent hitter; someone it seemed who could just get out of bed and get a base hit. His feat was impressive because on three occasions he kept his streak alive as a pinch-hitter.”
With the Dodgers advancing to the National League Championship Series, Shuba credits one person for their turnaround.
“Manager Joe Torre has been the calming influence on both old and young players alike. They have really played great ball the last half of the season because of his leadership,” Shuba said.
Next week, Stan Boney, news anchor for WYTV Channel 33 will be the guest speaker.