On July 7, an Aim Transportation Solutions truck and driver winded down Interstate 80, crossing state lines, hauling from New York City to Youngstown, OH, a bronze statue immortalizing the “Handshake for the Century.”
On one end of that monumental handshake was professional baseball player and Youngstown native George “Shotgun” Shuba. On the other end was none other than Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball.
When, on April 18, 1946, Shuba extended his hand, a courageous gesture during that pre-dawn of the civil rights movement, Robinson had just crossed home plate after crushing a three-run home run during his debut for the Montreal Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. This momentous locking of hands—one black, one white, both teammates—has since rippled from that blip in time, pivoting America toward racial equality.
The pride, privilege and significance, for Aim, of transporting this historical monument to its final stop, Shuba’s hometown, cannot be overstated.
“Having the opportunity to bring the Jackie Robinson-George Shuba statue home to Youngstown is a privilege and honor beyond measure,” said Aim Co-President Scott Fleming. “Aim has more than 100 years of history in Youngstown, so the significance, for us, is magnified, and it’s not just significant for us as a company but as community members as well.”
“When I told Scott we had a tight budget, I knew he would make it work for us,” said Eric Planey, a New York finance executive who grew up in Youngstown and whose idea it was to put a monument to George Shuba and Jackie Robinson in his native city. “What blew me away is when he told us there would be no charge for the transportation. I literally became misty-eyed, and looking back I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.”
The Aim driving crew—comprised of Bob Thibodeau, Aim’s Director of Safety; Cliff Dilling, Aim Safety Manager; and Scott Harris, Aim Driver Safety Trainer—arrived at the pickup point in New York City at daybreak. Everyone involved carefully loaded the veiled seven-foot sculpture into the Aim truck and secured it. The Aim team hopped back in the cab, with Thibodeau behind the wheel, and began the journey back to Youngstown.
The Aim driving team secures the statue in Brooklyn, NY, with the help of members of the Robinson-Shuba "bullpen," including sculptor Marc Mellon (pictured middle, in the light-blue polo).
“I watched the team load and secure the statue at the Bedi-Makky Foundry in Brooklyn,” Planey added. “They worked tirelessly to make sure it was secure in the bed of the truck—true professionalism.”
“Within our dedicated fleet operations at Aim we transport a wide array of products and have done similar high profile moves so we were confident that our team would execute flawlessly,” said Brandon Stieb, director of operations for Aim Integrated Logistics and who coordinated moving the sculpture. “We fully understand the magnitude of that moment in history and what the statue represents so we took great pride in helping the Foundation cement the legacy of Mr. Shuba and Mr. Robinson in the city of Youngstown.”
“What a wonderful honor for Aim Transportation Solutions to have transported the Jackie Robinson-George Shuba statue from New York to Youngstown, Ohio,” said Dr. Louis A. Zona, Executive Director of The Butler Institute of American Art. “And what an enormous honor that the city of Youngstown will become the permanent home of an art work that celebrates both artistic and athletic achievement. But even more important than that, the statue honors two great men whose simple gesture of a handshake would forever be revered.”
The Robinson-Shuba sculpture was unveiled Saturday, July 17, as part of Youngstown State University’s Summer Festival of the Arts in Wean Park, where it will live on as a monument to Youngstown’s connection with breaking down baseball’s color barrier and, of course, the much grander national implications of that.
“It’s difficult to fathom—for younger generations especially—just how groundbreaking such a seemingly simple gesture was, but, in 1946, it was nearly unheard of,” Aim Co-President Geoff Fleming said. “And this incredible statue is a testament to how people choosing to do the right thing on an individual level, no matter the consequences, can make huge, long-lasting positive impacts.”
Brothers Scott and Geoff Fleming lead Aim as co-presidents along with their father, Tom Fleming, Aim’s chairman, CEO and founder. The Flemings, Aim and its employees share a deep commitment to giving back to the local community.
The maestro behind the Robinson-Shuba sculpture is one of America’s leading representational sculptors, Marc Mellon. Even though Mellon grew up in Brooklyn and is based in New York, the renowned sculptor has a history with the city of Youngstown. About 10 years ago, an exhibition of his work was shown at the Butler Institute. In fact, Dr. Zona, recognizing Mellon’s superb talent, was the one who recommended Mellon for the Robinson-Shuba project.
Mellon crafted this feat of art and engineering in stages. Working from the famous photograph of Robinson and Shuba locking hands over home plate, dubbed “A Handshake for the Century,” he started by sculpting an 18-inch representation. After that, he produced a 30-inch version, which allowed him to work out more of the detail.
Working from that two-and-a-half-foot sculpture, Mellon sculpted the seven-foot version in clay, which became the cast that would turn into the final seven-foot bronze tribute to two amazing athletes and pioneers for racial equality in baseball and, more importantly, America.
Mellon’s Robinson-Shuba statue is adorned with informational plaques and benches for people and future generations to enjoy.
“The entire Robinson-Shuba Statue Committee is honored by Aim stepping up to the plate,” Planey said.
This extraordinary sculpture, and all that it represents, comes at another critical period in U.S. race relations. This work of art will live on, in Youngstown, OH, as an icon of teamwork, unity and triumph. It will stand as a reminder of the ability of single individuals to make vast and enduring positive impacts. It will be a symbol for how far we’ve come and a tool for where we want to go.