Baseball is rich in history and tradition. The act of mudding up a game ball arose from the practical concerns of pitchers who felt new baseballs were harder to grip, as Dan Barry reports in The New York Times. Thus, the application of Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud became a hallowed ritual. Striving to control the practice, and aiming to abolish it eventually, officials at Major League Baseball frown on mudding, citing concerns about consistency and fairness. The man who digs up and sells the mud argues that those efforts are an affront to the traditions and sanctity of the game.
Baseball is rich in history and tradition.
Over the years, Major League Baseball (MLB), the sport’s professional organization, has attempted to modernize the game, especially through applying technology, ostensibly for reasons of consistency and fairness. Yet teams throughout the League embrace traditions, earthy and old-fashioned as they may be. One such tradition is rubbing mud onto new baseballs to rough them up.
Mudding began when pitchers coated balls with mud to improve their grip.
Covering new baseballs in mud had a practical application. Pitchers seeking a tighter grip on pristine balls began to use infield dirt and their own spit to make the balls — called “pearls” — less slippery and more controllable. This often left balls blackened, squishy and less aerodynamic.
Enter Lena Blackburne, a former player turned coach and manager. He understood the problem of dirtying balls with various substances. Blackburne proposed treating them with his unique mud, sourced from a secret spot along the Delaware River near his New Jersey home. His offering — later known as “Mississippi Mud”—made pearls more manageable and helped preserve ...
Dan Barry, a columnist and reporter for The New York Times, also wrote the books Bottom of the 33rd, Pull Me Up and The Boys in the Bunkhouse.