Why a New Jersey Mudhole Contains Baseball's Dirtiest Secret

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iStock

In 1938, the Philadelphia Athletics third-base coach Russell "Lena" Blackburne waded into a tidal tributary in the Delaware River and realized he was soaking in a solution for one of baseball's biggest problems.

Back in the 1930s, baseball was a much more dangerous sport than it is today. Newly made balls were slick, and pitchers had a hard time controlling their tosses to home plate. Teams tried to improve each ball's grip by scuffing the hide with bleacher dirt, tobacco juice, shoe polish, or even licorice. This was less than ideal. Umpires complained that these applications made the ball easier to tamper with—indeed, these alterations are illegal today because they can alter the physics of a ball's movement—and players moaned that the applications were inconsistent.

Those inconsistencies had consequences. Over the course of a game, scuffed-up balls often got much dirtier and softer—making them not only more difficult to control, but also more difficult to see. With the invention of batting helmets still decades away, ballplayers were taking a risk with their life each time they stepped into the batter's box. In fact, a Cleveland Indians shortstop named Ray Chapman was killed in 1920 after he was beaned in the head by an errant pitch.

So when Coach Blackburne came across a slick patch of mud near his hometown swimming hole, his mind went straight to the playing field. The goop was gritty, but it resembled a mixture of "chocolate pudding and whipped cold cream." He toted some of the gunk back home and found that, sure enough, it smudged the ball perfectly, enhancing the grip without damaging the leather. When Blackburne showed the result to American League umpires, they gave the application a thumbs-up. By the 1950s, every major league team was using it.

Now before every major and minor league game (as well as many college games), an umpire or clubhouse attendant wipes a light coat of Blackburne's magic mud on each ball used. In fact, it's a rule in the major leagues. According to MLB Rule 3.01, all regulation baseballs much be "properly rubbed so that the gloss is removed" [PDF].

The mud even has fans outside of baseball. According to The Washington Post, "half of NFL teams buy Lena Blackburne mud to help their players grip the ball."

Though it's rumored to be located somewhere on the banks of the Delaware River near Palmyra, New Jersey, the mud hole's exact location remains a closely guarded secret. Only one person, Jim Bintliff, the mud's solitary farmer, knows exactly where to find it—and he refuses to give clues as to its location. "Does Jim Bintliff wave a magic wand over the mud during the winter, or add some mysterious ingredients to it?" the mud's website asks. "That too is a dark secret. He'll never tell."

Tom Brady Makes Nearly $1.5 Million Per Hour of Playtime—Which Is Only a Fraction of the NFL’s Highest Paid Quarterbacks’ Earnings

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game in January 2020.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game in January 2020.
Elsa/Getty Images

Each week during football season, NFL quarterbacks face heaps of high-stakes pressure as millions tune in to watch them try to lead their teams to victory—or at least avoid getting blamed for bad passes. It’s by no means an easy job, but at least it pays well.

To find out just how well, AT&T affiliate All Home Connections analyzed the salaries and playing times of all the first-string quarterbacks from the 2018 NFL season. Even if you knew they were raking in piles of cash for every second they spent on the field, you might not have realized just how much.

If you’re looking for ways to justify despising Tom Brady, here’s one: He earns about $1.5 million for every hour of playtime. However, as any devoted New England Patriots fan will tell you, Brady is far from the highest-earning quarterback in the league, and he’s accepted lower base salaries throughout his career so the Patriots can use that extra money to build a championship-winning team around him.

When it comes to playtime earnings, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo beat Tom Brady and every other quarterback by millions—he landed in first place with an average of more than $27.6 million per hour on the field. Compared to Garoppolo, the $8.8 million of runner-up Aaron Rodgers practically seems like pocket change. Most of the other quarterbacks earn somewhere between $1 million and $4 million per hour of playtime.

Part of the reason it looks like Garoppolo out-earned his peers so spectacularly is because his total playtime for the 2018 season was much lower than everyone else’s, due to a knee injury he suffered during the third game of the season. For this study, All Home Connections added up each quarterback’s total number of snaps and multiplied it by their offense’s average seconds per play to estimate their overall playing time. Then, they divided that number by the quarterback’s 2018 salary. Since Garoppolo’s overall playing time was only about 1.5 hours, he got more buck for his bang. Brady, by comparison, clocked about 10 hours of playtime during 2018.

See the full breakdown here, and get ready for Super Bowl LIV with these fascinating Super Bowl facts.

[h/t All Home Connections]

Heinz Might Pay Your Flight Change Fee if Your Favorite NFL Team Didn’t Make the Super Bowl

Vitor de Souza/iStock via Getty Images
Vitor de Souza/iStock via Getty Images

After an especially thrilling playoff season, Super Bowl LIV is officially set: It’s a showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, happening on Sunday, February 2, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

For any Chiefs or 49ers fan who booked a plane ticket to Florida before the teams had secured their spots, give yourself a pat on the back. For fans of a different team who booked tickets in advance, only to watch your team lose spectacularly during a playoff game, Heinz is here to help.

According to Yahoo Finance, the food company will cover the flight change fee for 300 lucky people who’d like to reroute their Miami-bound flights over Super Bowl weekend. In order to qualify, your flight had to have been booked before midnight on January 15, 2020; it must be on a domestic airline; and the destination had to have been Miami International Airport between January 29 and February 2, 2020.

If you can check all those boxes, snap a photo of your ticket confirmation and head to Heinz57FlightChange.com to enter the contest. All you need to do is fill in your name and email address, upload your image, and press “Submit.” It’s open until February 7, and winners will be notified by email on or around February 10.

If you win, Heinz will issue you a prepaid Visa gift card for the amount of $199.43 to reimburse you for the cost of your flight change. That will almost cover a fee of $200, except for 57 cents—a call-out to Heinz’s “57 Varieties” slogan.

Enter here, and gear up for the game wherever you are with 53 Super Bowl facts here.

[h/t Yahoo Finance]

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