Mar 20, 2017

Former Italian / American Brooklyn Dodger: Carl Furillo (1946-1960)

Carl Anthony Furillo was born March 8th 1922 in Stony Creek Mills, Pennsylvania. The strong six foot right handed Furillo, grew up four miles outside of Reading Pennsylvania and played on their local baseball team. 

He threw the ball so hard, and had such a strong throwing arm, he earned the nickname “The Reading Rifle”. A first his coaches tried to convert him to a pitcher, but he was too wild, and it was dangerous to stand in at the plate against him. 

After serving military service in World War II he got to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946 at the age 24.

In his rookie year he took over as the Dodgers right fielder, hitting .284 with three HRs 18 doubles, six triples, 35 RBIs & a .346 on base % in 117 games. By 1947 he was batting .295 and developed into one of the leagues top hitters for average. He would bat over .300 five times in his career, & would hit over the .290 mark, a total of eleven times in his fifteen year career. Furillo played in seven World Series while making two All Star teams as well.

In the Dodgers 1953 pennant season, he had one of his best seasons, winning the NL batting title hitting .344. His good hitting in his career had him compete for the batting title five times, as he finished in the leagues top ten in that category five separate seasons.

Also in 1953 he had career highs in doubles (38) & on base % (.393). He hit 21 HRs with 92 RBIs while scoring 90 runs for the first of three straight seasons. He won the batting title even though his season was cut short due to an injury, as he played in 132 games that season. The famous Dodgers Giants rivalry heated up once again, as Furillo got plunked on the wrist by Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez.

Furillo was infuriated that he charged the Giants dugout going after manager Leo Durocher for calling the pitch. A bench clearing brawl broke out & Furillo’s hand was stepped on causing him to miss the rest of the season. Furillo later said of the rivalry “We hated the Giants, I just hated that uniform”.

He was never really considered a power hitter, but Furillo did hit 18 or more HRs five separate seasons. He had two 100 plus RBI seasons driving in over 90 runs, six different times on some very talented Dodger teams. Furillo had four seasons of hitting 30 plus doubles as well as three seasons of 90 plus runs scored.

The only flaw he had was his slow running, which earned him the name “skoonj” short for scungilli, which is a slow snail like sea creature that taste pretty good in a fradiavlo sauce. His slow running led him to hit into 207 career double plays (81st all time). In 1956 he led the league in that category with 27.

On the field Furillo was an outstanding outfielder, one of the best of his era. He played the tricky right field wall at Ebbets Field in front of the famous Abe Stark sign which read “hit this sign and win a suit”. Not many suits were won with Furillo near the sign, as very few balls ever got passed him.

The Reading Rifle would have ten or more outfield assists for nine straight seasons, finishing first or second in put outs six different times. He and once threw out Pittsburgh’s Mel Queen running to first base on what looked like a sure single. The Reading Rifle, led the league twice in assists (1950 & 1951) & was in the top three in fielding four times as well. He would end his career with 151 outfield assists, and a .979 fielding percentage. He turned 34 double plays, and only made 74 errors in 1739 games played.

Post Season: Furillo was one of the popular Brooklyn Dodgers famed; Boys of Summer. In his Dodgers days he won a Worlds Championship & seven pennants. In his first World Series in 1947, he hit .353 going 6-21 with two doubles & three RBIs. In Game #3 in Brooklyn, he doubled home two runs in the Dodgers six run second inning, off New York's Bobo Newsome. He batted .353 in the series, scoring a run in Game #6 helping the Dodgers in their 8-6 win. 

In the 1949 Series he struggled, going 1-8 playing in just three games.

In the 1952 World Series, he was hitless in the first two games, then hit safley in four straight. In Game #5 he made a spectacular catch, reaching over the fence robbing Johnny Mize of a game tying HR in the 11th inning. The Dodgers won the game & went back to Ebbetts Field leading three games to two but lost the  final two games. In that Series he had just four hits, two of them doubles going 4-23 (.174) 

In the 1953 version of the subway series, Furillo began with an RBI base hitin the Game #1 loss in the Bronx. He had two hits then next day, then another hit in both Games Four & Five. In Game #6 Furillo hit a two run HR off Allie Reynolds, in the top of the 9th inning, to tie up the game. In the bottom of the 9th Clem Labine served up a walk & two hits as Brooklyn lost another series. Overall he hit .333 with four RBIs in that Series.

Furillo was a member of Brooklyn’s 1955 Championship team, batting .314 on the season (7th best in the league). He hit a career high 26 HRs (fourth on his team) driving in 96 runs (also fourth on the team), making it three straight 90 plus RBI seasons for himself. That season he posted a .391 on base % as well as coming in second in the league in fielding.

Post Season: In the '55 World Series he started out going 3-4 in Game #1 with a HR off Whitey Ford and two runs scored in the Bronx. In Game #3 he had two hits with an RBI double off Tom Morgan, in the Dodgers 8-3 win in Brooklyn. Furillo hit safely in four straight games and went o-3 with a walk in Game #7. 

Overall he hit .296 (8-27) with three extra base hits & three walks in the World Series.

He played in the last Brooklyn World Series in 1956 and then moved West with the club in 1957.  

1957 would be his last season as a regular player, he hit .306 in Los Angeles that year. He played in the first Dodger World Series in Los Angeles in 1959. He was a reserve outfielder behind Duke Snider, Wally Moon, Don Demeter & Ron Fairly, seeing action in just 50 games, often as a pinch hittter. 

Post Season: In Game #3 of the ’59 Fall Classic, Furillo came to bat with the bases loaded, in a scoreless game in the 7th inning as a pinch hitter. He drove a single up the middle, scoring Charlie Neal & Norm Larker with what were the winning runs.

In 1960 he tore his calf muscle after playing in just eight games, at age 38 his career was over as the Dodgers soon released him. He then sued the organization saying they released him to avoid the 15 year higher pension payout, as well as the fact they were avoiding his medical costs.

He won $21,000 in the settlement, but would be black balled from any jobs in baseball after that. The commissioner’s office denied any charges of him being black listed.

Lifetime in his 15 year career, Furillo hit .299 (211th all time) with 1910 hits 192 HRs 324 doubles 56 triples & 1058 RBIs in 1806 games played. In right field he played 1739 games (98th all time) with a .978 fielding % (87th all time) with 1135 put outs (86th all time).

Retirement: Furillo ran a butcher shop in Flushing, Queens during the sixties. He then worked for the Otis Elevator Co. and installed elevator shafts for the World Trade Center in the early seventies.

He moved back to the Reading, PA area in the late seventies and developed leukemia. He passed away in 1989 of an apparent heart attack in Stony Mill, PA at the age of 66.

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