Art of Aging: Atlantic County man making mud that helps pitchers throw the heat

Jim Bintliff is a self-described "mud guy." He harvests and processes the mud that helps pitchers get a grip.

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Thursday, September 1, 2022
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Atlantic County, New Jersey man harvests Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.

LONGPORT, New Jersey (WPVI) -- It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it for America's pastime.

Jim Bintliff is a self-described "mud guy." He harvests and processes the mud that helps pitchers get a grip.

Bintliff says when prepping a new baseball, it only takes a tiny bit of mud. Take a little out of the tub, wet it with a few drops of water and rub it into a soupy paste. Then, the ball gets rubbed with the mud.

"It's just enough to buff the slippery coating off the ball," he says. "It creates a whole new feel to a baseball."

It's called Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud, named for its creator. Blackburne, at various points in his career, was a player, coach, manager and scout in Major League Baseball.

"The American League used it starting in 1938, '39," says Bintliff. "The National League got it in 1950."

Bintliff says it's been dubbed "magic mud" by players.

"The mineral content is the secret; that's the magic," he says.

He says the mud contains Feldspar, which he describes as "a super, super fine abrasive" that doesn't scratch the leather.

Bintliff is the third generation digging mud in his family after Blackburne passed it to his friend, Bintliff's grandfather.

"1965 is the first time I ever went out to harvest mud," says Bintliff, now President of Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.

The location of the mud's origin is a highly guarded secret.

"It's a tributary of the Delaware in South Jersey. That's as precise as I get," he says. "The people who need to know, know."

Bintliff says his mud is used by all the teams in both major and minor league baseball.

He personally processes the mud after harvest. He says he lets the mud settle, drains off the water and replaces some of it. Then, it gets mixed and poured through a screen before it's left to sit for a while.

"It's aging like wine," he says. "It's kind of like pudding now. I like to get it to where it's more like a cold cream."

Once properly aged, containers get filled and sit on a drying rack until they're ready to be sealed and labeled. Each lid gets a sticker with the trademark logo.

Bintliff says football uses the mud too.

"About half the NFL uses it on footballs," he says. "More than a few dozen colleges using it."

Bintliff says he's proud that his family has been making the mud all this time.

"It was always something special to me," he says.

For more information, visit the website for Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.