Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Original Barrier Breaker

As Dodger fans we are given a steady diet of history. From the "Shot Heard Around the World" to Hilda Chester and her cowbell. From the lovable bum to the 1955 World Championship. From Walter Alston to Tommy Lasorda. We have all embraced the stories and the fables. Not surprisingly, Dodgers history oftentimes crisscrosses with the history of our country.

This sets us up for the seminal event we all know well. An event that would be remembered and discussed throughout the country. It was a sign that things are changing. That America was maturing. On a Spring afternoon, Pee Wee Reese welcomed his new teammate, Jackie Robinson, with a friendly smile and an arm around the shoulders.

The Baseball world and our country would never be the same. But did you know it was not the first act of kindness to a African-American man in organized Baseball. There was another event, just a year before, that also helped open the doors.

The Tribune Chronicle tells us all about it.

The Montreal Royals, a Dodger minor league affiliate, started the 1946 Baseball season with Jackie Robinson in the line-up. In his first game Jackie hit a homerun. George "Shotgun" Shuba was at homeplate to congratulate Jackie as he crossed home plate.
"This moment is described as the first interracial handshake in profession Baseball."
Apparently, Jackie had some worry that his teammates would not shake his hand. Bitterness and fear was still the order of the day. For George Shuba's random act of kindness Jackie called George to thank him.

George Shuba recalls the conversation.
‘‘He called me later and thanked me,’’ Shuba said. ‘‘And I said, what for?"... ‘‘I said, ‘Are you on our team? Are you on our side? OK then.’ ’’
Check out the link for the story. There is one photo that exist of this historic moment and Mr. Shuba recently donated a copy to the Austintown Historical Society.

Tribune Chronicle Link:

Hat Tip: Sports Collectors Daily: