Hello Baseball Fever Members & Guests,
I am often asked about the story behind the mud rubbed on the balls before each game by the umpires. Here is an Associated Press article that I believe is second-to-none in terms of an explanation:
Baseball's Mud Man Lives Quiet Life
SEMINOLE, Fla. (AP) -- To his neighbors, Burns Bintliff is
a retired New Jersey Turnpike maintenance contractor.
To Major league players, who may not even know his
name, he's the supplier of a silky, chocolate
pudding-like product known as "magic mud."
Umpires at every major and minor league ballpark in
America and Canada use the mud, called Lena
Blackburne Rubbing Mud, to take the shine of baseballs
before each game.
Shiny balls, straight out of their plastic wrapping,
are no good, professionals say. Pitchers can't get a good grip
and hitters are sometimes blinded when the sun or
indoor lighting hits the too-white surface.
Umpires say a little dab of Bintliff's mud removes the
shine off balls without scratching or denting the
Bintliff's product is so superior to other muds,
professionals say, that in 1969 it was permanently
enshrined in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
"There's something about this mud," retired major
league umpire Bill Kinnamon told the St. Petersburg Times
for its Monday editions. "I don't know how to explain it. It
takes the shine off without getting the ball excessively
According to Bintliff's wife, Doris, Russell Aubrey "Lena"
Blackburne was a major league infielder with the Chicago
White Sox and later, a coach for the then-Philadelphia
At the time, the mid-1930s, teams used a variety of
substances to rub baseballs -- tobacco juice, shoe polish,
dirt from the baseball field or a combination -- but nothing
they tried gave the balls the right look or feel.
Blackburne searched for the perfect rubbing compound
until one day, according to legend, he found mud he liked
in a secret body of water, probably some place in the
By 1938, he was supplying the mud to all American
League teams. Because he was a die-hard American
League fan, he refused to sell the mud to National
League teams until the mid-1950s. Since then, every
major and minor league team has used only the product.
One container, a little more than 16 ounces, will
usually last a season.
"There's a can of it in every umpire's dressing room,"
said Kinnamon "Before each game, we'd rub up about
five dozen balls, more for a double header."
Blackburne died in 1968 and left the mud business to
his boyhood friend, John Haas, who was the father of
Bintliff's first wife.
Before he died, Haas shared the secrets of the mud with
Bintliff, including its source. Today, the mud remains a
mystery and only a few family members know where it
Buddy Bates, equipment manager for the St. Louis
Cardinals, said there is a tub of Bintliff's mud in his locker
room. "We get it automatically every spring," Bates
said. "It costs $100."
I hope each of you found this as interesting as I did,