Harvesting baseball’s ‘magic mud’ “STORY FROM CNN”

Delran, New Jersey (CNN) — It’s a hot day as Jim Bintliff laces up his “mud shoes” — a beat-up pair of sneakers still tinged with dirt — and heads out for one of his last harvests of the year.

The tides are just right. Armed with a stack of buckets, a shovel and a pushcart, Bintliff walk sthrough the woods on a narrow winding trail he has followed for the past 44 years. Then, the forest opens up to reveal a secret fishing hole that lies on the banks of the Delaware River and in the sometimes-quirky pages of baseball history.

“Nobody knows this is where I get the magic mud,” Bintliff says.

Out of nine brothers and sisters, Bintliff was the one picked to carry on the family business — Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud.

The unique muck is the only brand used each year by Major League Baseball, and its minor-league affiliates, to abide by a line in the league’s rule book requiring umpires to inspect balls and make sure they’re “properly rubbed so the gloss is removed.”

The mud wasn’t officially introduced to Major League Baseball until 1938, but its legacy began almost two decades earlier.

On August 16, 1920, Ray Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, was crowding the plate in the top of the fifth inning when he was struck in the head by an underhand curve ball from New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays.