The letter from St. Christine School to Mike Shuba’s parents said their son had teased another kid in his kindergarten class for being overweight.
When Mike got home, his father, George “Shotgun” Shuba, pointed at the wall above his recliner to the only memento displayed in the house from his 14-year professional baseball career. “I want you to look up at that photo,” he said to his young son. “That’s me and Jackie Robinson and I want you to understand what it means: ‘You treat all people equal.’ Do you understand?”
The framed black-and-white image showed the two teammates from the Montreal Royals shaking hands at home plate on April 18, 1946. It was Robinson’s first regular-season game in the formerly all-white minor leagues, a milestone for baseball and for America that came a year before Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The handshake appeared in newspapers across North America the day after the game, then was virtually forgotten for half a century – except in the family room of the Shubas’ home. In the late 1990s, when the elder Shuba was in his 70s, Mike Shuba embarked on a mission to have others see the principled man an adoring son saw in a long-cherished photo.
Mike Shuba’s efforts continue today, seven years after his father died. And there’s a new chapter to the Robinson-Shuba story. The Shubas’ hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, will unveil a bronze statue this summer memorializing Robinson and the unheralded outfielder who gave him a hand one day 75 years ago.