June 18, 1887: Duluth pitcher strikes out 18 in a row

On this day in Duluth in 1887, Mark “Fido” Baldwin, a 22-year-old pitcher from Pittsburgh, struck out 18 batters from St. Paul’s team, including 12 in a row. The 1887 Duluth team, nicknamed the “Jayhawks” by sports historians, was the city’s first professional baseball team and played on a diamond on Rice’s Point that included bleachers that sat 1,000 people. According to Duluth baseball historian Anthony Bush, “Duluth had boasted a semi-pro team prior to the coming of professional ball. The first significant baseball field was built for the town team in 1884 between 15th and 17th Avenues east south of London Road.” Eight of 18 players on Duluth’s 1887 squad, which took the Northwestern League title, were either former or future major leaguers, including Baldwin. Perhaps the wildest, hardest-throwing pitcher of the nineteenth century, Baldwin won 39 games for Duluth that year with the help of Llewellyn Legg, the only Duluth catcher who could handle Baldwin’s fastball. (The two were touted as “the old reliables” in game advertisements.) That October the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings signed Baldwin to pitch in the fifth game of the 1886 World Series against the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. St. Louis objected, and after an argument delayed the game for 20 minutes, the umpires ruled Baldwin ineligible. He had to wait until the following spring to make his major league debut for Chicago.

An 1887 baseball card for Mark “Fido” Baldwin. Baldwin actually pitched for Duluth in 1887 and did not join Chicago’s major league team until the following spring. (Image: Public Domain)

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