Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The secrets of baseball rubbing mud

Looks like a solid batch from the kilo lab
Credit: New York Times
Via the New York Times, this article about a prominent trade secret: 
LONGPORT, N.J. — A 45-gallon rubber barrel sits in a cluttered garage along the Jersey Shore, filled waist-high with what looks like the world’s least appetizing chocolate pudding. It is nothing more than icky, gooey, viscous, gelatinous mud.

Ah, but what mud. The mud that dreams are made of.

This particular mud, hauled in buckets by one man from a secret spot along a New Jersey riverbank, is singular in its ability to cut the slippery sheen of a new baseball and provide a firm grip for the pitcher hurling it at life-threatening speed toward another human standing just 60 feet and six inches away.

Tubs of the substance are found at every major league ballpark. It is rubbed into every one of the 144 to 180 balls used in every one of the 2,430 major league games played in a season, as well as those played in the postseason.

...But M.L.B. executives do not exactly get all misty-eyed over the whimsical tradition of what is called Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud, which they say is too often inconsistently applied. In their quest to make balls more consistent — and the game more equitable — they have tried to come up with a substitute, even assigning chemists and engineers to develop a ball with the desired feel.

The score so far:

Lena Blackburne: 1

Major League Baseball: 0
I can't imagine that this stuff is that difficult to reproduce, but I do indeed like that it is a weird, mysterious tradition. 

(I imagine that if baseball really wanted to, it could get sufficient quantities of scientists and engineers together to reproduce this mud, or at least standardize it. How large is this secret spot, anyway? Will erosion/climate change change the composition of the mud in another 50-100 years?) 

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looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20