Mark Baldwin, whose portrait appears above, was born Oct. 29, 1864, in Pittsburg, Pa. He is of splendid physical development, standing over six feet in height, and weighs about 190 pounds. He began ball playing when only sixteen years of age, pitching for amateur teams of his native city. His professional career, however, began in 1883, when he pitched for the Cumberland (Md.) Club. In 1885 he joined the McKeesport Club, and his effective pitching helped materially its team in winning that season the championship of the Western Pennsylvania League and gained for him such renown that he was engaged in 1886 by the Duluth Club, of the Northwestern League. He did great pitching for the Duluth team in 1886, his most notable feats being holding the Oshkosh Club down to one safe hit Aug. 30, and striking out eighteen men - twelve being in succession - of the St. Paul Club, June 18. He pitched in forty-one games that season, being eight more than any pitcher of that league, and his fine work in the box for Duluth led to his engagement by the Chicago Club, with which he played throughout the seasons of 1887 and 1888, his most remarkable pitching performance being the retiring of the Pittsburg team with only one safe hit on Sept. 29 of the former year. Baldwin was one of the party making a trip to Australia and Europe during the Winter of 1888, '89. Upon the return of the tourists to this country, Captain Anson, thinking that Baldwin had lost his former effectiveness in the box, released him, and he was shortly afterwards engaged by Manager Buckenburger for Columbus Club, of the American Association. That the Chicago Club erred in releasing Baldwin, and that Manager Buckenburger showed good judgment in engaging him, was fully demonstrated during the past season by the excellent pitching he did for the Columbus team, twice holding the Brooklyns and once each the St. Louis and Athletics down to two hits in a championship game. Baldwin, who is one of the ablest pitchers the American Association ever had in its ranks, and there are few, if any, better in the profession will be found with the Players' League next season.
-New York Clipper, December 7, 1889
In 1889, Baldwin struck out 368 batters, which just seems insane given the context of the era. He had 151 more strike outs than any other pitcher in the American Association. That's crazy. In a short career that lasted only seven seasons, Baldwin was in the top eight in strike outs per 9 innings six times. He also led the league in walks twice and finished second three times. In 1889, when he struck out 368, he also walked 274 (leading the league by fifty). For a pitcher in that day and age, those numbers are absolutely insane.
I'm having a difficult time trying to figure out how good a pitcher Baldwin was. He certainly was unique but I think that Anson's critique was probably right. While Baldwin did have a great season with Columbus in 1889, his fine 1890 season took place in the Players League and he didn't show much after that. He was a good young pitcher that, like a lot of 19th century pitchers, put a lot of innings on his arm at a young age and wasn't able to sustain his early success.
Regardless of all of that, our interest in Baldwin has nothing to do with how he performed on the field and everything to do with how he ended up in a St. Louis jail in March of 1891. And that's what we're going to spend the next week or so talking about.