Thursday, June 13, 2013

'52T style custom card for Duke Markell

It's no surprise that Duke Markell didn't have a major league baseball card; he pitched in only five September games with the last-place St. Louis Browns in 1951.

Because I found his career to be interesting, I made him the subject of my most recent custom card, produced in the style of 1952 Topps.

While Markell's major league days were unremarkable, he did enjoy a lengthy and successful career pitching in the high minors.

Markell was the only French-born player in the major leagues between 1915-78. He was born in Paris in 1923 as Harry Duquesne Makowsky; his parents brought him to America as a seven-year-old.

Duke grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. Probably because he shared his Jewish heritage, Markell's favorite ballplayer gowing up was Hank Greenberg. I read somewhere that Markell was one of the neighborhood kids that shagged batting practice balls for Greenberg.

Markell served with the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II. He began his pro ball career in 1945, spending three years with N.Y. Giants farm teams in the lower classifications. 

In only his second start as a pro, Markell pitched the first of his three minor league no-hitters with Hickory in the Class D North Carolina State League. Still in Class D, in 1947 he set an Eastern Shore League record with 274 strikeouts in 249 innings for Seaford.

The next season Markell was in the Philadelphia Phillies chain, where he spent the 1948-49 seasons, rising as high as Class A ball with Utica in the Eastern League. He set another league record in 1948 with Schenectady in the Canadian-American League, striking out 270 in 250 innings, including 21 in a game against Rome.

Markell won 19 games in 1950 with Portsmouth in the Piedmont League (Class B). He jumped to AA ball for 1951 with Tulsa in the Texas League and had a 13-19 record before he was called up by the Browns.

For 1952 the Browns returned Markell to the highest level of the minors, Class AAA, in the International League, where was 14-8 with Toronto. He led the IL that season with 120 strikeouts.

After the season he was traded to the New York Yankees for Bobo Holloman and $35,000. The Yankees assigned him to Syracuse in the International League for 1953. His record that season was 11-17, but he pitched his second professional no-hitter on Aug. 3, defeating Toronto, and came within one K of leading the league with 155 strikeouts.

Markell remained in the International League into the 1957 season, with Syracuse (Yankees/Phillies) in 1953-54 and Rochester (Cardinals) 1954-57. With Rochester in 1955, he pitched his third career no-hitter on April 29, beating Columbus.

He closed out his professional career with Indianapolis and Charleston of the American Association.

It's too bad that to maintain the illustion of a 1952 card, I couldn't mention on my custom creation that Markell was a New York City policeman. He joined the NYPD in 1953, and for five years would play a full season of pro ball, then walk a beat until spring training. Following his baseball days, Markell became a full-time cop in New York in 1958. 

He died in Florida in 1984.

Besides my '52-style custom,  Markell had a "real"  baseball card in the 1952 Canadian Parkhurst set while with Toronto. He's also appeared on at least one modern collectors' issue card, in the Jewish Major Leaguers set of 2003.

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