||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (June 2014)|
October 23, 1886|
Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania
|Died: February 29, 1968
Riverside Township, New Jersey
|April 14, 1910, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 5, 1929, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||139|
Between 1910 and 1929, Blackburne played for the Chicago White Sox (1910, 1912, 1914–1915, 1927, 1929), Cincinnati Reds (1918), Boston Braves (1919) and Philadelphia Phillies (1919). He batted and threw right-handed. Following his playing career, Blackburne managed the White Sox (1928–29) and coached for the White Sox (1927–28), St. Louis Browns (1930) and Philadelphia Athletics (1933–38; 1940–45; 1947–48).
Blackburne was a native of Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, and moved to Palmyra, New Jersey with his family at a very young age. While living in Palmyra, as a youth, Blackburne played football for the Palmyra Field Club in 1906. Blackburne is best remembered for his eponymous rubbing mud, used by umpires on new baseballs to remove their slippery finish.
Blackburne broke into the majors with the White Sox in 1910, appearing in part of five seasons, and split the 1919 season with the Braves and Phillies. In an eight-season playing career, Blackburne was a .214 hitter with four home runs and 139 runs batted in in 550 games played. As a fielder, he appeared in 539 games at shortstop (213), third base (180) and second (144) and first (2), and also relieved in one game.
In 1933, he went on to become a coach with the Philadelphia Athletics of Connie Mack. Blackburne stayed with the Athletics as a scout when the club moved to Kansas City. As a manager in the major leagues, he posted a 99–133 record for a .427 winning percentage. He managed the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for parts of three seasons: 1916, 1921, and 1932. In each case he was hired as a mid-season replacement.
Blackburne died in Riverside Township, New Jersey at age 81, and is buried in Morgan Cemetery on the outskirts of Palmyra, not far from where he lived on Henry and Cinnaminson Avenues.
Lena Blackburne's Baseball Rubbing Mud
Blackburne made an unusual and valuable contribution to baseball when he discovered a special use for the clay from the Delaware River to take the shine off of baseballs before each game. At the time, the mid-1930s, baseball 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, he found a mud that he liked close to home. The actual location has never been revealed, but rumor says it was from a tributary of the Delaware River, near Palmyra, New Jersey where he lived most of his life. He marketed his idea, and by 1938, he was supplying the mud to all American League teams; because Blackburne was a diehard 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 his product. The mud is still collected today, from a new secret location.
One container, a little more than 16 ounces, will usually last a season. The process of creating the mud was featured in a pilot episode of the television show Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. The story of Blackburne's Rubbing Mud was also featured on History Channel's Modern Marvels "Dirt Education" and "Amazing Job Countdown" episodes. Blackburne's contribution to the game has earned him a mention in the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Associated Press
- Lena Blackburne at Find a Grave
- Baseball Library
- The Deadball E
- Rubbing Mud story from National Public Radio