Lena Blackburne
Lena Blackburne.jpg
Infielder / Coach / Manager
Born: (1886-10-23)October 23, 1886
Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania
Died: February 29, 1968(1968-02-29) (aged 81)
Riverside Township, New Jersey
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 14, 1910, for the Chicago White Sox
Last MLB appearance
June 5, 1929, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average.214
Home runs4
Runs batted in139
Games managed232
Managerial record99–133
Winning %.427
As player

As coach

As manager

Russell Aubrey "Lena" Blackburne (October 23, 1886 – February 29, 1968) was an American baseball infielder, manager, coach, and scout in Major League Baseball (MLB). He is best known for the creation of his baseball rubbing mud, used to remove the finish on new baseballs and give better grip and control to the pitcher.


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).[1]

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 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.

Managerial record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CWS 1928 80 40 40 .500 5th in AL
CWS 1929 152 59 93 .388 7th in AL
Total 232 99 133 .427 0 0

Lena Blackburne's Baseball Rubbing Mud

Main article: 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.

See also


  1. ^ "Lena Blackburne".