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Lena Blackburne Mud

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  • Lena Blackburne Mud

    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
    comes from.

    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,


  • #2
    Wow, an amazing story - thank you! I was totally unaware that new balls needed the shine removed.

    R.B. from Down Under
    "A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." ~Humphrey Bogart

    No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference. ~Tommy Lasorda


    • #3
      Great story!
      I share pictures from my collection of baseball photographs on twitter @PastimeClassics


      • #4
        good read,thanx for posting


        • #5
          For a long time, my favorite baseball trivia question was: Who was and what is Lena Blackburn.....Now I will have to go in search of another. I believe I read someplace that the mud came from the Delaware River, but I wouldn't take an oath on that....
          "I wanted to be a big league baseball player so I could see my picture on a bubblegum card."Al Ferrara


          • #6
            There is show on National Geographic IIRC, that this guy does these horrible jobs...such as sewer worker, bat biologist (knee deep in guano)

            One show he actually went and did the Lena Blackburne mud job...silting it and such...there is a guy in each clubhouse that uses that mud to rub the balls...nice job!


            • #7
              Hi Folks!

              Sorry to post on a topic that is a few years old, but I hope someone sees this.

              I am working on an eagle sculpture project which relates to the story about the baseball rubbing mud. I live in Palmyra, NJ, and have always heard from everyone here that it comes from the Delaware River somewhere in Palmyra...our one claim to fame.

              Is it possible that this is just our little urban rumor? Or do you think it is true?

              Also, I have contacted Mr. Bintliff, son or grandson of the man mentioned in your article. He has a website you might find interesting:


              PS: If anyone has any brilliant ideas as to how I can get some old beat up baseballs donated to this project, I need about 60 or 70 more. I am covering the back of a 6-ft fiberglas eagle with the leather skins from the balls. The older and more beat up, the better.


              • #8
                That is the truth, as far as where it comes from is concerned.

                Ole Lena also managed the Little Rock Travelers in 1925. His record was 67-86, good for 8th place, but their attendance increased from 52,434 in '24 to 79,653 during Lena's year at the helm.

                Sorry, I can't help you out with the old baseball covers.
                Last edited by lamearm; 05-15-2005, 10:01 PM.
                "I wanted to be a big league baseball player so I could see my picture on a bubblegum card."Al Ferrara


                • #9
                  You can buy the mud and rub em down.
                  I bought some of the mud at a local sports shop in Remond WA.


                  • #10
                    There is a similar article in the sports section of the NYTimes today. I can't find it online, so here is the near same from Newsday:

                    Me, at a Boston restaurant, to a waiter:
                    Are you sure the Manny Ramirez (name of burger) isn't a sloppy joe?


                    • #11
                      There was also a episode of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery channel where they went to the guy to creates and packages the mud used, its a home business, pretty interesting.


                      • #12
                        Lena Blackburne - Boston Braves - Found the mud used to rub baseballs.JPG
                        Here's a rare photo of Lena Blackburne playing for the Boston Braves in 1919
                        A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn't work hard for validation. I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do, play it right and with respect. If this validates anything, it's that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera. - Ryne Sandberg


                        • #13
                          That's amazing. I've never heard that one before. That's pretty cool.


                          • #14
                            i swear i've heard where it's from. i've heard somewhere in N.J. but i really think i've heard the river's name.
                            Stay Away From Downed Power Lines.


                            • #15
                              ahhhhh. it's the delaware river
                              Stay Away From Downed Power Lines.


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