George “Shotgun” Shuba

George Shuba – now there’s a name that doesn’t ring a bell for many baseball fans. However, mention George “Shotgun” Shuba around any old-time Dodger fan and you’re sure to get a smile.

George "Shotgun" Shuba

George “Shotgun” Shuba

Shuba did not have an especially notable career, one that was cut short by injury, but his career was not without significance to the Dodger organization and the history of  the game itself. He was never a regular player but was a key pinch hitter and back-up outfielder for the Dodgers from 1948 through 1955. He hit .259 lifetime with the Dodgers, with 24 homers and 125 RBI in 355 games. There are suggestions he did not become a regular following a stellar year in the minor leagues in Mobile (21 HR, 110 RBI) either because Branch Rickey felt he did not have enough power or because he was not a strong defensive player.

“Shotgun” got his nickname for the way he sprayed line drives while he was in the Dodgers’ farm system, but his smooth left-handed swing wasn’t a fluke, it was the result of a tenacious practice regimen when he was a teenager. He explains: “I got a bat and drilled a hole in it about six inches in the barrel. I put lead in it. Then in my basement I had a ball of string hanging, and I would swing in 25-swing increments until I had 600 swings for the day. Sometimes I would do 400 swings in the day, go out on a date, and come back at 12:30 in the morning and do 200 more.”

He used that swing in 1953 to become the first National Leaguer to hit a pinch hit home run in a World Series game. And though that may seem hard to believe, what was even more unbelievably is that he hit that two-run shot off of Yankee great Allie Reynolds. At the time of his pinch hit home run, Shotgun was completely unaware that it had etched his name into baseball history forever.

“Shotgun” Shuba’s final AB in the major leagues was in the 1955 World Series, again as a pinch hitter. Manager Walter Alston used him to pinch hit for second baseman Don Zimmer. A hit at that time would have scored at least two runs in a tight final game that was eventually won by the Dodgers 2-0; but it wasn’t to be. Shotgun’s pinch hit at bat did, however, become part of the famous Sandy Amoros catch. With Don Zimmer now out of the game (having been pinch hit for by Shuba), Jim Gilliam was moved to second base and Sandy Amoros entered the game in left field. A short while later, Amoros made his impossible and historic catch which he turned it into a double play. Most agree that because Gilliam was not as fast as Amoros and unlike Amoros wore his glove on his left hand instead of his right, Gilliam would not have made that catch in the left field corner and thus, no double play.

Shuba played seven seasons in the majors, all with Brooklyn; and like many others, he was known to have been outfoxed by Branch Rickey at contract negotiation time. Shuba wanted a salary increase to $23,000 and during his meeting with Rickey, the Dodger general manager was summoned to another office for an important phone call. As he waited, Shotgun noticed a contract with Jackie Robinson’s name on it for $21,000 sitting on Rickey’s desk. When Rickey returned, Shuba immediately agreed to take $20,000. Like many before him, he found out later that Jackie’s contract was a phony and that the important phone call had been a setup.

George “Shotgun” Shuba was rewarded by Roger Kahn with his own chapter in Kahn’s 1972 bestselling book ‘The Boys Of Summer’, a book that was later selected by a Sports Illustrated panel as the greatest baseball book ever written. Kahn notes that even though Shuba hit that first-ever National League pinch hit homer in a World Series game, he is best remembered for a truly remarkable moment in baseball history that occurred while Shuba was still in the minor leagues – he was the first person to congratulate Jackie Robinson with a handshake on Jackie’s first home run in an all white man’s league. As Jackie reached home plate at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City on April 18, 1946, Shuba extended his hand and shook Robinson’s hand, accepting Jackie as a respected teammate. The famous photo, ‘Handshake for the Century’ records a pivotal moment in Jackie’s career and marked the beginning of integration in professional baseball.

'Handshake for the Century'

‘Handshake for the Century’

In a subsequent interview, Shuba answered a question about that historic moment: “It didn’t matter that Jackie was black, he was the best guy on the team and he was my teammate. He could have been Technicolor, it didn’t matter to me.”

On July 20, 2008 at age 83, George “Shotgun” Shuba returned to Brooklyn and appeared at KeySpan Park (now called MCU Stadium) to greet fans and sign copies of his own book ‘My Memories as a Brooklyn Dodger’. Prior to that evening’s Brooklyn Cyclones game, Shuba participated in a reenactment of the ‘Handshake for the Century’ to commemorate the historic event. It was truly an emotional night for Shuba and for all in attendance.

On July 20, 2008, George "Shotgun" Shuba reenacted his famous 'Handshake for a Century' at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn. Imagine the excitement that this young man felt shaking the hand that shook Jackie Robinson's hand. (Photo credit - Gary Thomas)

On July 20, 2008, George “Shotgun” Shuba reenacted his famous ‘Handshake for the Century’ at KeySpan Park in Brooklyn. Imagine the excitement that this young man experienced shaking the hand that shook Jackie Robinson’s hand.
(Photo credit – Gary Thomas)

(Article re-posted from December 31, 2012)

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14 Responses to “George “Shotgun” Shuba”

  1. Truebluewill says:

    Great article, Harold! I never saw George Shuba play but I read about him in Boys of Summer and other books about the Brooklyn Dodgers, so I knew about the handshake. I didn’t know that he appeared at KeySpan Park in 2008, sorry I missed that.

    The Dodgers had a star at every position in those days except for left field, even with Shuba’s shortcomings you think they would have given him a chance to be the everyday left fielder. I think he would have done a good job. He had great stats in 1952.

  2. ebbetsfld says:

    George is still alive and resides in Youngstown, Ohio. For some unexplained reason, he was never at a Dodger Fantasy Camp I attended, but is fondly remembered by the Brooklyn guys who were. I always assumed “Shotgun” came from his arm, so thanks for that info. A friend of mine here in Toledo has met George and says he is a quiet, unassuming gentleman and very modest. Great post, Harold, keep ’em coming!

  3. Evan Bladh says:

    Thiat was a great read. I’m glad to hear that George is still with us today.

  4. OldBrooklynFan says:

    Thanks Harold, it’s always good to read about former Dodgers that have never made it to the HOF. Others like Car Furillo and Billy Cox, to name a few. It’s great to relive theit stories.
    I’ve never checked it out but as you know, the Dodgers, in there last 10 years in Brooklyn (like recently), never had many regular left fielders. Probably the most popular being Andy Pafko, who did so for a few years, but it seems to me that Shuba may have appeared in left field more than many of the others.

  5. echavez2 says:

    Awesome story Harold! I love these kind of stories! keep them coming…

  6. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Andy Pafko only had a season sand a half with the Dodgers. He was a good acquisition. George Shuba was hitting .387 with Mobile, got called up nd returned to Mobile.

  7. mikedodger8 says:

    George “Shotgun” Shuba is doing fine, he turned 88 this year.. he reads a lot and likes to watch baseball.. He is the oldest living member of the 1955 W.S. team. I did take father to vero for his first and last camp, it was wonderful and we have many great memories.

    He was a pinch hitter and they did not keep records for pinch hitters then. He sits in his living room these days reading in his chair, above him is a big photo of him shaking Jackie Robinson’s hand April 18, 1946. I have the only known photo in the world. Jackie Robinson first stepped on field that day, The color line was broken, On this date also was Jackie’s first home run, also the first time ever a white hand clasped a black in congratulations in organized baseball history.

    Dodger Fans – he’s still around and could talk to you about the Handshake like it happened yesterday.. http://www.georgeshuba.com

    Thanks for thinking about father Harold

    Mr Mike Shuba

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to post a comment about your father here on ThinkBlueLA, Mike.

      Don’t let the “LA” part of our blog site name fool you, as many of our loyal readers are of the Brooklyn Dodgers generation (a kind way of saying old farts) and we are very familiar with your father’s great career and the significance that his thoughtful Handshake had on the history of the game.

      We all sincerely hope that your father is in good health and please express to him that he is loved and respected by so many, not just as a former Brooklyn Dodger, but as a wonderful human being.

      God Bless you and your family, Mike – and Happy New Year.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      Thanks so much Mike. I simply can’t tell you how thrilled I am to hear from you and as a result in a small way connect with your Dad. January 1, 2013 is a day I will never forget.

      That was a magical moment in the history of baseball when your Dad extended his hand in friendship, publicly, to Jackie. George was just interested in playing the game and winning. But more than that, he demonstrated a compassion that was missing in so many. He also made MLB a winner that day and forever as long as the game is played.

      Did players receive WS rings back in 1955? George certainly earned his helping Jackie, Campy, Newk, Gilliam and Joe Black become Dodgers.

      I should mention that Bluenose Dodger is my user name, being from Lunenburg in Nova Scotia, Canada.

      Thanks again for a thrill of a lifetime.

      Harold

  8. KSparkuhl says:

    Way to go Harold!! Good article… and it was fantastic to hear from the Shuba family. Thank you for “going the distance” with this one!

  9. OldBrooklynFan says:

    WOW George Shuba’s son, that really puts this blog on the map. Nice hearing from you Mike. Nice going Harold.

  10. MFGRREP says:

    A great article about a great person, thank you Harold and thank you Mike for sharing !!

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