But a new baseball is a gleaming white orb of perfection that’s slick to the touch. The cowhide ensures that. For a pitcher to get a good grip, something has to be done to make the ball less glossy. Spit, nicks, gels — any tampering or foreign substance altering the appearance or aerodynamic properties of the ball is illegal. Something was needed that could make the ball uniformly easier to handle — without amending the ball in any way.
An ex-player and manager named Lena Blackburne was the one who solved the problem in the 1930’s with his discovery of the perfect mud. He harvested it from a still-secret location in New Jersey until his death. The location was passed on and this ‘magic mud’ that doesn’t discolor, soften, or stink up the ball has been rubbed on every ball in Major League play before every game ever since.