Alexander DeAngelis, with invaluable assistance from Joseph Avella, Elise Avella Feiner, Tina Marmorale Connelly, Vincent Marmorale and Vicki Raifsnider
Carl Furillo was one of America’s most famous Major League Baseball players. He started in the majors in April 1946 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, stuck with them for his whole career, and made his last appearance in May 1960 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played right field and was renowned for his strong throwing arm which earned him the nickname “The Reading Rifle” both because he grew up near Reading Pennsylvania and because his arm was as strong and accurate as a rifle. He was also known by the nickname “Skoonj” for his love of the salt water snail called “scungilli” in Italian.
Italian Americans growing up in the New York area, or for that matter, anywhere in America in the late 40s and 50s, regarded him as their hero. His team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the favorite team of many Italian Americans. Brooklyn Dodgers fans were intensely loyal especially because the Dodgers were always an underdog to the rival New York Yankees. When the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958, many fans felt personally betrayed. That feeling remains strong even now 65 years later. But Carl was still a hero to them. He played in two All-Star games (1952 and 1953) and in seven World Series, winning in two of them (1955 and, 1959).
Carl lived in East New York as opposed to many of the Dodgers who lived in Flatbush near Ebbetts Field, probably because he wanted to be in an Italian neighborhood with availability of good southern Italian food. His favorite restaurant was Carlucci’s on Eastern Parkway between Atlantic and East New York Avenues; he was also a denizen of Tex’s Pizzeria on Atlantic Avenue which was in close proximity to the Paduli Club.
Carl Furillo brought pride to many Italian-Americans including those of us descended from Paduli. What few of us knew, however, was that Carl Furillo was also descended from Paduli. Carl’s mother was Filomena Petroccia. Filomena, “Minnie,” was born in Paduli 18 February 1885. Her parents were GiovanniAntonnio Petroccia and Maria Michela Signiorello.
Filomena emigrated to America in 1909 at the age of 24 arriving in New York on March 5th on the San Giorgio from Naples. Unlike most other voyages of Padulesi to New York, she was the sole person from Paduli on this particular voyage. In Reading, Pennsylvania, not in New York as stated in a previous version of this post, she met and married Michael Furillo. They lived near Reading. They had six children of whom Carl, born in 1922, was the youngest. Filomena’s sister, Alessandra “Sallie” Petroccia, emigrated in 1909 and also lived in Reading, Pa.
Unfortunately . Filomena died in 1940 when her son Carl was only 28 years old. She is buried in Gethsemane Cemetery, Lauraldale, Berks County, Pa., Section MC, Plot 248, Grave 3.
Carl died of leukemia on 21 January 1989 at age 66. He is buried in Forest Hills Memorial Park, Reiffton, Berks County, Pa., Section J, Lot 266, Grave A.
Note: The original family name was Fiorello.
Note: I am grateful to Joseph Avella for providing the interesting details about Carl’s life in East New York. I am also grateful to Vicki Raifsnider, a descendant of the Petroccia family. She long ago provided me information about the Petroccia sisters. She is also responsible for the burial images and related information. Thanks to Vincent Marmorale for providing the image of the SKOONJ license plate.
Alex DeAngelis-7 April 2021