Carl Furillo, the right fielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers during their glory years in the late 1940’s and 50’s, died yesterday at his home at Stony Creek Mills, Pa. He was 66 years old.
Furillo played his entire 15 year career with the Dodgers in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, taking part in seven World Series and finishing with a career batting average of .299. He hit 192 home runs and had 1,058 runs batted in.
His best season was in 1953 when he led the National League in batting with a .344 average. He won the title despite being sidelined with a broken finger incurred in a brawl. Furillo had been hit by a pitch from the New York Giants’ Ruben Gomez, and then charged the Giant manager, Leo Durocher.
“We hated the Giants,” he recalled years later. “We just hated the uniform.”
Furillo batted over .300 in four other seasons and drove in 90 or more runs for the Dodgers six times.
He was one of the star players for the Dodger team recalled in “The Boys of Summer” by Roger Kahn and was a member of the only Brooklyn team that won the World Series, in 1955.
Furillo, who was raised in Lower Alsace Township, Pa., near Reading, started playing baseball as an outfielder for the Pocmoke City in the Eastern Shore League at a salary of $80 a month.
He fought his way up through the Dodger organization, where he acquired the name Reading Rifle for his fine throwing arm.
Pee Wee Reese, the former shortstop for the Dodgers, recalled a few years ago how the sign for Abe Stark’s clothing store at the base of the right-field wall promised a free suit to any batter who hit it on a fly.
“But Furillo played right in front of it,” said Reese. “Nobody ever hit it.”
In 1959, Furillo, then 37 years old, played only 25 games in the outfield, but he delivered a game-winning hit in the World Series to help Los Angeles defeat the Chicago White Sox. His pinch-hit single in the seventh inning of Game 3, coming with the bases loaded, drove in two runs to break a scoreless tie. The Dodgers went on to win that game, 3-1.
The following season, however, Furillo was released after suffering a torn calf muscle. It was a heavily publicized incident that left him bitter. Furillo wanted to finish his 15th season so he would qualify in the players’ pension fund and receive $285 a month compared to $30 a month less if he left when the Dodgers wanted him to leave.
But the slugger who had smashed 192 homers over 14 years had only two hits in 10 times at bat.
After being released, he sued the Dodgers, saying his release was illegal because he had a baseball-related injury. A court awarded him back pay, and later he said he was blackballed from baseball coaching and scouting jobs.
He is survived by his wife, Fern; two sons, Carl of Temple, Pa., and Jon of Stony Creek Mills; two sisters, Rose of Bernville, Pa., and Josephine, of Reading; and five grandchildren.