Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monster Card of the Week - 1959 Survivor

It may be hard to believe from my almost 30 posts, but I do have non-Red Sox cards in my collection (other than in set form). This week's Monster Card is one of those "other" cards. In fact, of all the cards in my collection, this one non-Red Sox card may be one of the most special to me. This week’s Monster Card is a 1959 Topps Carl Furillo card, and it is the only card that remains of my dad’s childhood baseball card collection.

There are a million, “Mom/Grandma threw away my baseball cards” stories out there. It’s part of the reason why those old vintage cards are worth so much now. My dad’s story is no different. When he left home to go off to college, his mom cleaned out his room and threw out those old worthless beat up pieces of cardboard. I remember going to card shows with my dad back in the late 80s and he’d point out an old vintage card and tell me he remembers having it. The one I still remember to this day was the 1956 Mantle. I used to have dreams about searching my Grandma’s attic and finding that card in a dusty old shoebox in a dark corner. Unfortunately though, Mantle didn’t survive the purge. But Furillo did. Somehow, Carl Furillo managed to hide himself in an old book (I can’t for the life of me remember what book I found this card in) until I found him some thirty years later. I had no idea who Carl Furillo was, but I felt like I had struck gold. I had discovered a lost relic from my dad’s childhood – a treasured gem from the good old days.

Carl Furillo played the outfield for 15 seasons with the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers. He was an integral part of the Dodger dynasty of the 1940s and 1950s. Nicknamed “the Reading Rifle”, Furillo was noted for his strong and accurate throwing arm. He recorded 10 or more assists in nine consecutive seasons and led the National League in 1950 and 1951. As testament to his defensive prowess, he once threw out Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Mel Queen by two feet at first base after Queen had apparently singled into right field. Furillo was a decent offensive player also, batting over .300 five times and winning the 1953 batting title with a .344 average (the highest average by a Dodger since Oyster Burns hit .354 in 1894). In his 15 year career, Furillo batted .299 with 192 home runs, 1910 hits, 1058 RBI, 895 runs, 324 doubles, 56 triples, 48 stolen bases, a .458 slugging average and 514 walks for a .355 on base percentage. Sure he wasn’t Mantle (or even Duke Snider), but he was a very good major league player. Unfortunately he left baseball on very antagonistic terms. The Dodgers released him in May 1960 while he was injured with a torn calf muscle. Furillo sued the team claiming they released him to avoid his pension and medical expenses.

Furillo reportedly died a very unhappy ex-major league ball player, feeling that baseball had forgotten him and his accomplishments. Well I can tell you that I’m one baseball fan who will never forget Carl Furillo. He and his 1959 Topps card will always hold a special place in my collection. I wouldn’t trade my Furillo baseball card for a Mantle. Unless of course it was that Mantle I dreamed was hiding in a dusty shoebox in a dark corner of Grandma’s attic.


night owl said...

Furillo was also known as "Skoonj," which is what a lot of fans called him.

Furillo does come off as bitter in "The Boys of Summer," but not unlikeable.

That's a great card! I only have three 1959 Dodger cards.

Scott C. said...

I read about his other nickname when I was doing some reasearch about him. I think its hilarious - a bastardized version of the Italian word for snail, because he was so slow!