June 18, 1886: Duluth pitcher strikes out 18 batters

On this day in Duluth in 1886, Mark Baldwin, a 22-year-old pitcher from Pittsburgh, struck out 18 batters as Duluth defeated St. Paul, 13–4, in a Northwestern League professional baseball game. The St. Paul Globe reported, “The pitching of Baldwin … was simply immense. He struck out 18 men, 12 in the last half of the game.” The 1886 Duluth team—the city’s first professional club—played on a diamond on Rice’s Point near the mouth of Miller Creek. St. Paul’s Orlando Fitzsimmons surrendered 16 hits in the blowout but notched 12 strikeouts of his own for a remarkable 30 total “K”’s in the contest. It wasn’t even Baldwin’s highest strikeout total that year. He whiffed 19 in a 12-inning battle at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on September 13. Perhaps the wildest, hardest-throwing pitcher of the nineteenth century, Baldwin had 27 of Duluth’s 46 victories to lead the team to the league championship in his only season in the Zenith City. That October the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings signed him to pitch in that era’s version of the World Series. The American Association’s St. Louis Browns objected since he had not played for Chicago during the regular season and he had to wait until the following spring to make his major league debut. It wasn’t his last confrontation with St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe. A nearly decade-long and multi-lawsuit feud that stemmed from the collapse of the Players’ League in 1891—and Baldwin’s role in aiding his new team, the National League’s Pittsburgh Alleghenys, of “pirating” St. Louis players, which was a contributing factor to his hometown team’s name change—culminated in Baldwin’s lawyer hiring a private detective to kidnap Von der Ahe and escort him from St. Louis to a Pittsburgh courtroom in 1898. Baldwin became a doctor in Pittsburgh after his playing days and returned to Minnesota to study surgical techniques at the Mayo Clinic in 1905.

An 1887 baseball card for Mark Baldwin. Baldwin’s tenure with Chicago ended after his raucous behavior on the team’s famous 1888-89 globetrotting tour. He went on to play for Columbus in the American Association in 1889. His 368 strikeouts that season has only been surpassed three times since, by Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, and Randy Johnson. (Image: Public Domain)