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Baseball handshake statue promises to be hit

Artwork of historic 1946 handshake to be unveiled today

Brian Brock, president of Brock & Associates Builders of North Lima, general contractor for the statue site, helps confirm placement of the statue celebrating the 1946 Jackie Robinson- George Shuba handshake. The grand reveal takes place at 9 a.m. today as a kickoff to the Summer Festival of the Arts....Submitted photo

YOUNGSTOWN — It took many months for Youngstown and the nation to celebrate a moment from 1946.

It was in October last year when Youngstown’s Design Review Committee approved plans for the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue, saying it will be a great asset for downtown Youngstown.

The COVID-19 pandemic had set back the planned April dedication of the larger-than-life bronze statue, a concrete base, tiered seating, paved walkways, plants, and bronze historic and donor plaques now built near the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre site.

But today, the statue is ready for its unveiling and dedication as part of the Youngstown State University Summer Festival of the Arts in Wean Park. It’s been cloaked at the site since arriving here last week.

The monument to racial equality is to be unveiled in a 9 a.m. ceremony to open the two-day arts festival, which will take place in Wean Park for the first time.

The handshake of Jackie Robinson, the first African American in mainstream professional baseball, and George “Shotgun” Shuba, his white teammate from Youngstown, was a landmark moment in the integration of baseball.

“A Handshake for the Century” happened on April 18, 1946, after Robinson — the first black player in modern organized baseball — hit a three-run home run in his debut game with the Montreal Royals. Although neither of the two players who scored on the blast waited for him at home plate, Shuba stepped up from the on-deck circle to shake his teammate’s hand. That moment, captured in many photographs, was the first interracial handshake on a modern professional baseball field.

Originally the dedication was planned for April 18 this year — the handshake’s 75th anniversary,

Sculptor Marc Mellon’s bronze statue was cast at the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, N.Y., which is known worldwide for crafting the Iwo Jima Memorial near Washington, D.C., and the Charging Bull in the New York financial district.

Fundraising for the Youngstown project exceeded the $400,000 goal set by the Robinson-Shuba Commemorative Statue Committee.

Aim Transportation Solutions donated the transport of the bronze handshake statue from the casting foundry to downtown Youngstown. The company will be recognized today along with VEC Inc., which donated the Wi-Fi security-camera system for the statue site; and Enviroscapes, which donated more than a third of the cost of landscaping.

“These in-kind donations, along with several recent cash donations, enabled us to complete the project on time, despite a large spike in the cost of construction materials and services,” said Greg Gulas, co-chair of the committee developing the statue. “We’re very excited about unveiling the completed statue (today) to memorialize this huge moment in the history of sports.”

Ernie Brown, another co-chair of the committee, added, “The support from people and organizations across the Youngstown area has been strong since we first announced plans for this statue in late 2019. The statue’s message about unity among people of different races resonates very well in our community.”

news@vindy.com

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