You might have read the title to this post and wondered who the heck I am talking about. Well if you have picked up some packs of TRIStar’s Obak, you might have come across this player on a card. The truth is he may not have had a storied career, and as a manager he was nothing special, but he had a huge impact on baseball.
Before each major league baseball game, all baseballs to be used during the game are rubbed down with mud. Not just any old mud, but mud that could only be found in the Deleware river basin, near Palmyra, New Jersey. Lena found this mud, and began to market it to all the American League teams. His mud wasn’t sold to the National League teams until the mid 1950’s (apparently he dispised the National League).
Here is a piece that NPR did about the history of Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud:
This is an excerpt from Wikipedia.org regarding the 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, according to legend, he found mud he liked in a secret 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 die-hard 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. 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. Blackburne’s contribution to the game has earned him a mention in the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown,New York.
The main reason I am writing this post is that it is fascinating to learn about these little tidbits. The Obak set really has some very creative autographs. The Lena Blackburne autograph is from a cut signature (since he passed away in 1968). I have not seen one on eBay, but I did find this <gem>, which if you are a fan of baseball history like I am, it’s a must have. It is a 1/1 Obak Lena Blackburne parallel and right now it’s just under $11. I am sure when it is all said and done it will be a lot more than that.
Finally if you would like some more information about the company, their website can be found <here>.