Duke Carmel: 1960's New York Born Mets Player (1963)

Leon James Carmel
was born on April 23rd, 1937, in East Harlem, New York City. At the time the neighborhood was called "the largest Italian colony in the western hemisphere" by the NY City mayor's committee.
 Patsy's Pizzeria, espresso cafe's, Italian ice shops & plenty of baseball lots.

Carmel attended Benjamin Franklin High School off Pleasant Ave. Leon earned nick name of "Duke".

The six foot three, Carmel, batted & threw left-handed. In 1955, he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent. 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 promoted to AAA for three games. 

MLB Career: On September 10th, he made his MLB debut with the Cardinals, pinch hitting in a 7-4 loss to the Milwaukee Braves. Two days later he got his first hit & drove in a pair of runs in a 6-4 Cards win over the Cubs.

In 1960 he spent most of the year at AAA hitting 10 HRs with 61 RBIs, appearing in four games at
the big-league level. He spent two more seasons in the minor leagues, with the Dodgers, Indians & then back to the Cardinals organizations.

On April 16th, 1963, he hit a pinch-hit game tying HR off the Pirates, Elroy Face. He would bat just .227 in 57 games with St. Louis before getting traded to the New York Mets.

Mets Career: On July 30th, he was dealt for Jackie Davis who never played in a Mets uniform. 

Trivia: When Carmel joined the '63 Mets, they became the only team to probably ever have two Dukes, the other was 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".

1963 Mets: Carmel debuted as a Met on July 30th, 1963 getting a hit in a 5-1 loss at Los Angeles. He collected hits in his first three games, including two at County Stadium in Milwaukee in an 8-0 Mets loss to the Braves. 

On August 8th, Carmel had his biggest day as a Met, he collected three hits & 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 off the Braves Bob Sadoski. The HR came in the bottom of the 1st inning, of a wild game 16 inning game that the Mets would win  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. He would have two different two hits games that month, where he drove in two runs each time.

Carmel played in 47 games for the 1963 Mets playing outfield (21 games) first base (18 games) & was used as a pinch hitter. He batted .235 with 3 HRs five doubles, three triples, eleven runs scored & 18 RBIs.

1964: 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 going 0-8.

Trivia: 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, Ford said " You just can't hit south of the Mason Dixon line". 

In 1967 he played at the AAA level with the Mets & Reds organizations. He retired at the end of the year. 

Carmel played four seasons batting .211 with 4 HRs seven doubles, 23 RBIs & a .294 on base %.

Retirement: After baseball Carmel settled in Coram, Long Island & then in Waretown New Jersey. He became a salesman for a liquor distributor.

Passing: Carmel passed away in 2021 at the age of 84.


Clay said…

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