Mark Baldwin, the pitcher, who had signed with the Columbus Club, of the American Association, and afterwards "jumped" his contract and signed with the Pittsburg Club, of the National League, was arrested March 5, at St. Louis, and put in jail on a charge of conspiracy. He is charged in a warrant, issued on complaint of President Von der Ahe, of the St. Louis Club, of the American Association, with conspiring with J.P. O'Neill and Manager Edward Hanlon, of the Pittsburg Club, to break up the Columbus club and otherwise injure the American Association. Baldwin has had a rather checkered record as a ball player. He first became prominent as a pitcher for the Chicago Club, of the National League. He had a row with Captain Anson, and, as a result, was given his unconditional release from the Chicago team. Then the Columbus Club, of the American Association, signed him. He did good work for them during the season of 1889, and became a great favorite. In 1890, he joined the Chicago Club, of the Players' League, after having pledged himself to play with the Columbus Club. Then he attempted to induce O'Connor, his catcher, to jump his contract, but the latter refused to do so. This season Baldwin agreed to play with the Columbus Club, and he signed a contract, which he afterwards "jumped," to sign with the Pittsburg Club, of the National League, and was engaged in again endeavoring to get O'Connor to break his contract when he was arrested.
-New York Clipper, March 14, 1891
I've avoided covering the Baldwin Affair for a long time. The thing is weird and complicated and goes on for something like seven years. Not too long ago, I tried to sum the whole thing up in a short paragraph and just couldn't do it. There is just no way to explain the Baldwin Affair in four sentences.
But I guess it's time to sort the whole thing out and, as we normally do here, we'll be going to the contemporary newspaper accounts to educated us about what the Affair was all about. I'll also probably throw in a few secondary sources that cover Baldwin's biography and generally touch on the subject. So get yourself ready to learn more about the Baldwin Affair than any reasonable human being ever wanted or needed to know.
And the above piece from the Clipper is the perfect place to start because Baldwin's arrest in St. Louis on March 5, 1891 was the beginning of what would become known as the Baldwin Affair. I'll get more into what exactly happened as we go along but here we are at the moment that began the whole mess.