Major League Baseball rubs its balls in New Jersey mud
For staunch baseball fans and those who are from the area around eastern Burlington County, this is not news.
The fact that ALL baseballs in Major and Minor Leagues are rubbed with mud from New Jersey.
Growing up in that area, as kids we tried to figure out exactly where they get the mud.
It's a long and well-guarded secret. Some reports are that it comes from the banks of the Delaware River, and some say the Rancocas Creek.
My hometown of Delran is where these two bodies of water come together and somewhere down a long trail through the woods is where they collect Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.
Before every game there is someone in every clubhouse of every team in Major and Minor League baseball, there is an equipment guy or girl rubbing this magic mud on every ball that will be used in a game.
The ritual and actual rule go back to 1938, but it started years earlier after a player was killed after being struck in the head with a wild pitch.
It happened to Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman on Aug. 16, 1920.
Umpires were desperate to find a way for pitchers to have a better grip on and control of the new baseballs used for every game.
They tried using everything from infield dirt to tobacco juice to shoe polish and none of it worked. Along comes Palmyra New Jersey native and Philadelphia Athletics third base coach Lena Blackburne.
He cured and aged mud from a fishing hole not too far from his hometown in Delran.
The stuff worked and by 1938 every team in the majors was using Lena Blackburne's magic mud.
Jim Bintliff, a descendant of Blackburne's has been collecting the mud out of that secret fishing hole for the past 60 years.
He makes the trek through the woods to an open spot to that fishing hole where, for some reason, the only mud that will do, sits and waits for Jim to fill his buckets and pushcart to gather some more.
In looking for that secret spot years ago, the only thing my friends and I found was a lot of poison ivy and some pretty big catfish.
The spot is still a family secret and a long-standing important tradition and ingredient in all of Major League Baseball.
A lot of famous inventions, innovations and creative people came out of New Jersey. Lena Blackburne's Baseball Rubbing Mud is just one more.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.
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