20 May 2009

skoonj. from the italian scungilli, meaning snail.

i started re-reading roger kahn's 'the boys of summer' last week. it has been a long time since i read it, and i know i certainly didn't appreciate a lot of kahn's writing the first time around. in fact, i may have just skipped and read only the parts that actually had to do with the players. anyway, carl furillo was one of those guys who i should have remembered more about. the only thing i really knew about him growing up was that he wore #6 - garvey's number - which you can not quite see on his 1958 topps card. the reading rifle meant a lot more to the dodgers than that - he was a huge part of their offense and defense from the late 40's through the 50's, and was a key component on their 1955 world series championship team. he led the national league in 1953 with a .344 batting average, and according to his bio on wikipedia, he once threw a runner out at first base after the batter had apparently hit a single. i thought that only happened in little league! his other nickname was 'skoonj'. they just don't make nicknames like that anymore. the dodgers of furillo's era had 'peewee', 'preacher', 'oisk', 'skoonj' and who knows what else. sure, they also had 'newk' and 'campy' which are more comparable to today's nicknames, but 'skoonj' is something special.

1958 was furillo's last full season, and he finished 23rd in the national league mvp voting that year. he was a part-time player in 1959, but still helped the dodgers win their second world series. he was unfortunately injured in 1960 and released by the dodgers, falling about a year short of being a 15-year player and qualifying for a higher pension. furillo sued the dodgers and, although he won $21,000, he felt that he was blackballed by baseball as a result of his legal action. i have to say, i don't ever recall furillo being a part of the old-timers games the dodgers used to host, or hear his name the way others from that era were mentioned by vin scully, ross porter and jerry doggett, but i can't consider that enough evidence of any formal blackballing. perhaps the fact that roger kahn's book finds furillo working as an elevator installer in the world trade center is more telling, although certainly not conclusive.

still, i wonder if the dodgers ever extended an offer to furillo later on, the way they welcomed don newcombe back to the organization in the 70's. it seems to me that skoonj deserved to be a bigger part of the dodger family.

1 comment:

night owl said...

Furillo comes of as quite bitter in the book. Not in an unlikable way, though.