Lena Blackburne

His Contribution to Baseball 

Lena Blackburne and his contribution to baseball is unusual.  Blackburne was born on October 23, 1886 in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. However, he lived most of his life in Palmyra, New Jersey. He was a mediocre player to say the least. He batted and threw right handed. With a lifetime batting average of .214, he hit only 4 homeruns and 139 Runs Batted In. As an infielder, he played for the Chicago White Sox from 1910 to 1912 and then for the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. His coaching and managing career included coaching the White Sox in 1927 & 1928 and then managing the White Sox in 1928 & 1929. He also was a coach for the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics. His managing career was not stellar with a .427 winning percentage, winning only 99 games and losing 133 games. 


Art Shires played for the Chicago White Sox in 1929 as  Blackburne was in his first full year as manager. Shires was also a professional boxer. He had a record of 5 Wins and 2 Loses the wins were all Knock Outs (KO’s) and 1 of his 2 loses was a KO.

In Spring Training in 1929 Art was named Captain of the Sox. In just two weeks the position was taken away for lack of effort, being out of shape, and breaking team rules. Shires was sent home.  He was later re-instated.

The White Sox Manager and Art “The Great” Shires feud began in May. Shires and his manager had a fist fight and Shires gave him a black eye. Shires was again stripped of his position as team captain and suspended. Shires soon apologized and was re-instated as a part-time player and pinch hitter. In June he again became a starter. In September another fight between the two occured. Art Shires received his third suspension of the 1929 Baseball Season. Many people in baseball and the press thought Shires would be fired for the incidents and the three suspensions. However Blackburne was fired as manager of the White Sox after the season. 

His contribution to baseball happened as a coach for the Philadelphia Athletics in the mid 1930’s. He coached for the famous manager Connie Mac. The umpires, at that time, had a problem with the shine of the baseballs used in the American League. The Athletics coach had discussions with the umpires and used outfield dirt to take the shine off the baseballs. The umpires thought that the outfield dirt was not sufficient. After much thought, Lena came up with an idea of using Delaware River mud on the baseballs. He found a spot near his home, took some of the mud, rubbed it on a few baseballs and presented them to the umpires. The umpires found the Mud to be the substance that was needed to take the pearly shine off the baseballs but did not deface the surface of the ball.    


Lena marketed the idea in 1938 from the Mud on the Delaware River near his home in Palmyra, NJ. The spot was his secret. For years there were different substances used on baseballs to take away the shine, from shoe polish, tobacco juice and dirt from the playing field. However, Blackburnes Delaware River Mud proved to be the perfect product for the time. As an avid American League fan, he only sold the mud to them. He did not sell the mud to the National League until the 1950’s. Now every MLB team uses the Lena Blackburne Delaware River Mud. It is the only mud used. Still harvested today from the same spot, it is a well-kept secret.  

A container of the Mud is about sixteen ounces and will last the six-month baseball season. The production of the Mud was featured on The Discovery Channel for their program, “Dirty Jobs.” The Blackburne Delaware River Mud was also seen on the History Channel’s, “Modern Marvels” called “Dirt Education”

As a baseball player, coach, and manager Lena never contributed much to the game of baseball.  But his rubbing mud, used for 75 years in the MLB, has earned him a spot in the history of the game. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Lena Blackburne and his contribution to baseball have been a part of the game since the 1930’s.

For more information on the Lena Blackburne Delaware River rubbing mud go to www.baseballrubbingmud.com.

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