Leon James Carmel was born on April 23rd, 1937 in East Harlem, New York City. Carmel attended Benjamin Franklin High School off Pleasant Ave back in the days when East Harlem was still an Italian neighborhood.
There was Patsy's Pizzeria, Espresso Coffee cafe's, real Italian Ice shops & plenty of baseball. He earned the nick name "Duke" & being known as Duke Carmel he had a classic name, pefect for baseball.
Carmel was signed as an amateur free agent in 1955 by The St. Louis Cardinals. In 1957 he slugged 29 HRs with a .329 batting average leading his team to the Pioneer League Pennant. In 1959 he hit 23 HRs while batting .291 at AA Omaha getting pushed to AAA for three games, then debuting with the Cardinals for ten games in September.
In 1960 he only appeared in four games at the big league level & then spent two more seasons in the minor leagues, batting a best .243. In that time he went to the Dodgers, Indians organizations & then back to the Cardinals.
In 1963 he played in 57 games with St. Louis before getting traded to the New York Mets on July 30th, for Jackie Davis who never played in a Mets uniform. As Carmel joined the '63 Mets, he became part of one of the only teams in baseball history to have two guys named Duke on the same squad. The other was veteran Hall of Famer Duke Snider.
Those clever early Mets fans at the old Polo Grounds would even hang banners for Manager Casey Stengel saying "Hey Casey Put Up Your Dukes".
Carmel debuted as a Met at County Stadium in Milwaukee, getting two hits in an 8-0 Mets loss to the Braves. On August 8th Carmel had his big Mets moment when he hit a two run HR in the bottom of the 8th inning off the St. Louis Cardinals Bobby Shantz, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead & the eventual win.
On September 1st he hit a three run HR in the bottom of the first inning in a wild game against his old Braves team mates. The Mets would win the game on a walk off HR by Tim Harkness.
The next day in the first game of a double header against the Cincinnati Reds, Carmel tripled to score Harkness & Ron Hunt in what turned out to be the game winning runs. Duke Carmel played in 47 games for the '63 Mets playing at first base, out field & as a pinch hitter. He batted .235 with 3 HRs five doubles three triples eleven runs scored & 18 RBIs.
Carmel spent 1964 at AAA Buffalo having a big year with 35 HRs 99 RBIs & batting .271. The next year he was drafted as Rule V player by the AL New York club, playing just six games at the MLB level.
In Jim Bouton's book Ball Four he sardonically mentions Carmel was to be the next Joe Dimaggio. When he couldn't hit during Spring Training Whitey Ford told him " Your just not a Florida hitter". When he didn't hit up North he said " You just can't hit south of the Mason Dixon line". Carmel went 0-8 with five strike outs before getting reassigned.
He was back with the Mets organization as well as the Reds organization through 1967 playing at the AAA Level. Carmel played four seasons at the MLB level batting .211 with 4 HRs seven doubles 23 RBIs & a .294 on base %.
Retirement: After baseball Carmel settled in Coram, New Jersey & became a salesman for a liquor store.