John T. Saccoman
People who saw Carl Furillo play talk most often about his throwing arm. He was given nicknames because of it, including “The Reading Rifle” and “The Arm.” On August 27, 1951, Pirates pitcher Mel Queen learned about Furillo’s arm the hard way—thrown out at first base after hitting an apparent single to right. It was one of Furillo’s twenty-four assists that season. In his career he threw out seven men who rounded first too widely, throwing behind them. Another of Carl’s nicknames was “Skoonj,” short for one of his favorite foods—the Italian seafood dish scungilli, the edible part of an aquatic snail.
Furillo, who batted and threw right-handed, was a .299 career hitter and a batting-title winner in 1953. Nevertheless, people wanted to talk about the way he played the right-field wall at Ebbets Field. The wall was nineteen feet high, with a nineteen-foot screen on top (which was in play), and the scoreboard with a Bulova clock atop it sat in right center. The wall was concrete and concave, with a vertical top half and an angled bottom half. According to Philip J. Lowry in Green Cathedrals, there were nearly three hundred angles a ball could take after hitting different parts of the wall.
Furillo described how he played the wall. “Will it hit above the cement and hit the screen? Then you run like hell toward the wall, because it’s gonna drop dead. Will it hit the cement? Then you gotta run like hell to the infield, because it’s gonna come shooting out. I can’t even tell you if it’s gonna hit the scoreboard. The angles were crazy.”1
Carl Furillo had been in Leo Durocher’s doghouse and
benefited from Leo’s suspension.
Carl Anthony Furillo was born on March 8, 1922, in the same town in which he died—Stony Creek Mills, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Reading. The son of Italian immigrant parents, Michael and Filomena Furillo, he dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade. His was a close-knit family, and Carl worked at various jobs, including picking apples and work in a woolen mill. However, he always played ball. After the death of his mother, when he was eighteen, he was able to leave the family to pursue baseball professionally.
Furillo spent most of the 1940 season with the unaffiliated Pocomoke City (Maryland) Chicks of