Carl Anthony Furillo
(Skoonj or The Reading Rifle)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 190 lb.
- Debut April 16, 1946
- Final Game May 7, 1960
- Born March 8, 1922 in Stony Creek Mills, PA USA
- Died January 21, 1989 in Stony Creek Mills, PA USA
Carl Furillo was a player whose fame would have been greater on many teams other than the one he played for during his entire career. While Carl was a very good player, the Brooklyn Dodgers of the time were full of Hall of Famers and major stars, and it was tough to get noticed. On the other hand, one can also argue that Carl got a lot more attention than similarly-talented players because his teams were so prominent.
Furillo broke in with the Dodgers in 1946 at the age of 24, after the war ended. Like Gil Hodges, he had the misfortune of missing some years to military service. He hit over .280 as a rookie, and with one exception would go on to hit at least .280 for all the years he played as a regular.
Furillo's expertise was his batting average. His lifetime average was .299, and in his 13 years as a regular he hit over .300 five times and over .290 five other times. While he was not much good at drawing walks, he had moderate power, and slugged .500 three times (with a high of .580 in 1953). He also had a strong arm in the outfield, and was given the name The Reading Rifle. (He came from a small town only 4 miles from Reading, PA). In fact, early in his minor league career, his manager Fresco Thompson tried to convert him to pitching, but Furillo was so wild that he was endangering opposite batters' lives. As an outfielder, however, he was a master at playing the tricky right-field corner of Ebbets Field.
He was on the sideline when he won his batting title in 1953. On September 6th, the New York Giants' Ruben Gomez plunked him on the wrist. There was a long history of animosity between the Giants and the Dodgers, and especially between Furillo and Leo Durocher, his former manager with Brooklyn. That day, Furillo charged at Durocher, in the Giants' dugout, and a furious brawl erupted along the first base line; someone stepped on Furillo's right hand during the melee, breaking a bone and keeping him out of action until the World Series.
After 12 years in Brooklyn, Furillo followed the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, but his career petered out as he aged. Although he hit .290 in 50 games in 1959 and won Game 3 of the World Series with a bases-loaded pinch hit single, he appeared in only 8 games the next year and was done, because of a leg injury. He sued the team for releasing him while injured and won a considerable settlement, but that action also got him black-balled from future employment in baseball.
Furillo appeared in seven World Series with the Dodgers between 1947 and 1959, getting 34 hits. He also appeared in the 1952 and 1953 All-Star Games. He led the league in batting in 1953, but otherwise did not lead the league in any major hitting category. His highest finish in the MVP voting was 6th in 1949, when he hit .322 with 106 RBI. However, teammate Jackie Robinson won the award.
After his retirement, Furillo briefly ran a deli restaurant in Queens, NY, then moved his family back to Reading and worked in construction. He was working for the Otis Elevator Company installing elevator doors on the huge World Trade Center building project when author Roger Kahn caught up with him in the fall of 1970.
His brother, Nick Furillo, played in the minor leagues in 1940.
- 2-time NL All-Star (1952 & 1953)
- NL Batting Average Leader (1953)
- NL At Bats Leader (1951)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1953, 1955 & 1956)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1949 & 1950)
- Won two World Series with the Brooklyn Dodgers (1955) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959)
- Roger Kahn: "The Hard Hat Who Sued Baseball", in The Boys of Summer, Perennial Classics, Harper and Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2000, pp. 327-341 (originally published in 1972).
- Ted Reed: Carl Furillo, Brooklyn Dodgers All-Star, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2011.