Eddie Collins left, Lena Blackburne center, Ty Cobb right
Yep. It’s a real product. And the only product used by all thirty Major League Baseball clubs to break in balls. All minor league teams too. Give it that non sheened scuff, without scratching the leather of the hardball. Wear it in, without marring the beauty of the white leather and red stitching. Lena Blackburne, a Philadelphia A’s third base coach, discovered the product after listening to the complaints of an umpire concerning the usual ball weathering products. Tobacco juice. Infield dirt. Shoe polish. Schmutz, glop, and other unspeakables from under the bleachers. All of which left the balls in garbled disrepair, and, moreover, the performance of the balls became as capricious as all those products, and all the variables of whoever is applying those products are wont to do. Baseball wouldn’t want to seem capricious.
The one thing that baseball does better than seem capricious, is inculcate a sense of legend and mystery. Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud does just that. Legend has that Lena began scouting the brackish banks of the Delaware River in Southern New Jersey in 1938, and came upon a “secret location” rife with the perfect admixture of mud suited for, you know, rubbing baseballs. God Himself had beset the banks of a river with some divine ingredient. Sounds almost biblical.
Jim Blintiff runs the company now, and is purported to be the only person who knows the real location of Blackburne’s “secret spot”. He culls the mud himself, and cures it behind his house before jarring and shipping the product across the nation. The Baseball Rubbing Mud is sold in 32 ounce jars. No doubt, paleontologists of the future will puzzle over dirt native to the Delaware River found in trace amounts on the surface of baseballs, under the thin swath of inked autographs, entombed in glass spheres, and buried under rubble of shelving and books all over the globe.