Over a 13 year stretch, Carl Furillo was a part of seven National League pennant winning teams with the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles. For much of that time he was the starting right fielder, showing off one of teh strongest, most accurate arms of his generation. Furillo was also a fine hitter, winning the NL batting title in 1953 with a .344 average, the highest mark for a right-handed hitting Brooklyn player in 59 years.
An Italian, Furillo was born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania, which led to his nickname “The Reading Rifle” due to his rocket throwing arm. Furillo was also called “Skoonj” in reference to the Italian word “scungilli” which means snail. It was given to him by teammates because Furillo was a slow runner.
In the heyday of the Dodger sin Brooklyn, Furillo was one of the most popular players in the team. He attracted a group of rooters who sat in right field and waved signs and chanted his name during games at Ebbets Field. He exhibited incredible ability to play balls off the right field wall at Ebbets Field, and he frequently fielded balls that would have been doubles but held the opposing batter/runner to a long single.
A pretty consistent performer, Furillo batted .290 or higher in 11 of his 15 seasons, but he ended his career one hit away from a lifetime .300 batting average. He also ended it on a sour note when the Dodgers released him in 1960 when he was injured. At that time there was no protection for a player when he was injured from being let loose without compensation. He sued the Dodgers, claiming the team released him to avoid paying a higher pension once he reached 15 years of service time. He eventually won his case and was awarded more than ,000. But the case created a divide between Furillo and the Dodgers, and even though the veteran wanted to work in the game after he retired as a player, he was never offered a job by Los Angeles or any other team. Instead, Furillo spent the rest of his life working mostly in manual labor jobs, including installing elevators at the world Trade Center in Manhattan. he died in Stony Creek, Pennsylvania in 1989 at the age of 66.
During his career with the Dodgers, Furillo appeared in seven World Series, six of them against the New York Yankees. Furillo was a good player in the Fall Classic, batting .353 in the ’47 Series, .333 in the ’53 Series, and .296 in ’55 when the Dodgers finally beat the Yanks and won their first – and only – title in Brooklyn. Probably Furillo’s biggest play in the World Series came with his glove. In Game Five of the ’52 Series, with the Dodgers clinging to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the 11th inning, Furillo leaped and caught a drive off the bat of Johnny Mize, robbing the Yankee slugger of a game-tying homer. Even in 1959, when he was used exclusively as a pinch-hitter during the Series against the White Sox, Furillo delivered a clutch two-run single in the seventh inning of Game Three that proved to be the game winner.
In 1952, Furillo struggled to his worst season to date when he batted just .247 with a .351 slugging percentage. After the season it was learned that he had cataracts and he underwent surgery. With clear vision, he had his best year in ’53, improving his average by 97 points and his SLG mark by more than 200 points.