When Dave Baldwin played pro baseball, no one called him an
artist. These days, however, that is what the 58-year-old former
reliever is. Two years ago the National Baseball Hall of Fame
and Museum acquired one of Baldwin's works, making him the only
pitcher to get into Cooperstown because he could literally paint
In 1994 Baldwin, who lives in San Diego with his wife, Nadine,
had sent photographs of his baseball-themed paintings to the
Hall of Fame in the hope that his work would be considered for
display. The Hall's five-member accessions committee, which
receives dozens of submissions annually, was so taken by
Baldwin's Fugue for the Pepper Players that it acquired the
piece for its permanent collection. "Baseball art can get heavy
sometimes, but this painting has a whimsical and lighthearted
feeling," says Ted Spencer, curator for the Hall of Fame and
When he was an undergraduate at Arizona, Baldwin was a promising
pitcher, until he suffered an arm injury in his sophomore
season, 1957. He recovered, however, and the Philadelphia
Phillies took a chance and signed him in 1959.
Baldwin played for nine minor league teams over the next eight
seasons, earning the distinction of being released by farm clubs
of the two teams that were then the worst in baseball (the New
York Mets and the Houston Colt 45s, later renamed the Astros).
It wasn't until 1966 that Baldwin found his ticket out of the
bush leagues, with the Washington Senators.
"Baldwin has as his major weapon a peculiar side-arm curve
ball," wrote Leonard Shecter in SI in 1967, when Baldwin was in
his first full year with the Senators. "His strange delivery
appears to start from third base. He releases the ball somewhere
between his belt and his knees, with a sweeping motion so far to
the right that a right-handed hitter would have to look behind
him to see it leave Baldwin's hand. Left-handed hitters,
however, are looking directly at his hand when he releases the
ball." So lefty batters hit Baldwin hard.
The 29-year-old rookie finished with 12 saves and a 1.70 ERA in
'67 but was unable to shed criticism that he was merely a "super
specialist." After the '69 season, manager Ted Williams decided
the team needed lefthanded pitching and Baldwin was traded.
In 1973 the Chicago White Sox granted Baldwin the 37 days of
work he needed to qualify for his pension, and he went off to
pursue a Ph.D. in genetics. Baldwin first became interested in
art while taking a course in scientific illustration. Painting
became a relaxing hobby as he pursued his doctoral work, but he
never thought he was preparing for a third career. In the early
'90s, however, after working as a geneticist and an engineer for
more than a decade, he suddenly found himself out of work. "I
was working in industries that were laying people off," he says.
"A 53-year-old with a Ph.D. in genetics has extremely limited
"Painting became a necessity," he continues. He took up art full
time in 1992, experimenting and learning more about painting.
Baldwin paints in a style that he calls "figurative
abstraction." In almost all of his work, you might say realism
takes a rain check. Physical features are exaggerated, and
scenes are whimsical.
Although the subjects of his paintings are wide-ranging, Baldwin
uses his experience as an ex-major leaguer to explore many
aspects of baseball as a theme. In Kid with a New Glove he
captures the joy of a child, and in Cool Papa the Negro leagues
legend, Cool Papa Bell, is depicted in midslide.
"I've always loved the game," says Baldwin. "My goal as an
artist is to stimulate and direct the imagination of the viewer.
Baseball has always lent itself to the creation of graceful
action and magic in art."
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Baldwin's distinctive style, as in "The Flyhawks" (right), features exaggerated characterizations. [Dave Baldwin painting]
COLOR ILLUSTRATIOM: KAREN HANSEN [See caption above--painting The Flyhawks by Dave Baldwin]