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Dirty Baseballs

Pro Pitchers' Dirty Secret Rubbed On Every Ball
by Carolyn Beeler
WHYY, Inc. - October 23, 2011

Behind every pitch in professional ball is a guy like Dan O'Rourke, rubbing up baseballs in the Philadelphia Phillies clubhouse. He plucks a ball from a stack of boxes between his knees and prepares his hands with mud.

"I'm applying mud to the baseball to take the sheen, the shininess off the ball, so the pitchers have something to hold onto," he says. He gives the ball a few quick turns against his palm.

"I do roughly three to four balls at a time," he says.

Rubbing new balls with mud is standard practice for every clubhouse in Major League Baseball, and since the 1950s, all that mud has come from the same secret spot in southern New Jersey.

"I guess you'd call me a mud farmer," says Jim Bintliff, president of Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud. That's right, baseball rubbing mud. Bintliff's is the only baseball rubbing mud company that serves professional baseball. Bintliff does his harvesting in shallow water on a muddy bank of a Delaware River tributary....

Legend has it players started rubbing up baseballs after an errant pitch killed a batter back in the '20s. Umpires tried tobacco juice and infield dirt to rough up the new leather. Turned out what worked best was mud drawn from the favorite fishing spot of a friend of Bintliff's grandfather.

That mud is now the standard in professional leagues.

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