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Furillo, Former Dodger Star, Now a Corner Grocer in Queens

Feb. 20, 1964 - Carl Furillo’s right arm, the mightiest in the majors when it was cutting down enemy baserunners at old Ebbets Field, now slices salami in a delicatessen in Flushing, Queens. Furillo (pictured right after hitting a home run in the first game of the 1955 World Series), out of baseball since May 1960, has been a corner grocer since last summer. He established himself in the wondrous world of provolone and pickles when he bought into the business operated by Julia Vanacore, the widow of a friend from Carl’s Brooklyn days. “I like it, and I’m getting to learn the grocery business too,” the still trim, dark-haired Furillo said, looking up from the “hero” he was concocting during the noontime rush today.

A portable television set, mounted against a backdrop of canned goods and Italian delicacies, is as close as Furillo gets to baseball these days. “I’m not bitter against the game,” he said. “After all, it did an awful lot for me. But I just don’t have the time anymore. I keep pretty busy here. About 10 hours a day, and we’re open on Sundays too.”

Furillo has become an official resident of Queens. He moved his wife, Fern, and their two sons, Carl Jr., 15, and Jon, 13, from Reading, Pa., to a home he purchased recently in the Kissena Park section of Flushing. The boys are ballplayers, and Carl is enthused over the ability shown by Jon. “He’s left-handed, and he’s a pitcher,” Furillo said. “He’s a great fan of Sandy Koufax’s. Sandy sent him a glove, and he uses it all the time. He might develop, but I’m not going to push my boys into anything. Sure, I’ll encourage them, but you can’t lead other people’s lives for them.”

Furillo said the toughest part of his divorce from baseball was explaining to his sons why he was no longer playing with the Dodgers. “I told them my legs gave out and let it go at that,” he recalls. A member of seven National League champion teams between 1947 and 1959, Furillo batted over .300 five times, winning the 1957 batting title, with a .344 average.

The Dodgers released Furillo in May 1960 while he was injured with a torn calf muscle; he sued the team, claiming they released him to avoid both the higher pension due a 15-year player and medical expenses, eventually collecting $21,000. He maintained he was blackballed as a result and was unable to find a job within the sport — a charge denied by Commissioner Ford Frick.


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