Blackburne made an unusual contribution to baseball when he discovered and marketed
the special mud from the Delaware River used by umpires to rub the gloss off new
baseballs. His feminine nickname came from a leather-lunged minor league fan who
compared him to another player, Cora Donovan, but Blackburne claimed it was because
he had a "lean" physique. More successful as a minor league manager and coach, his
term as White Sox skipper (1928-29) was most notable for his savage fistfight with
one of his own players, Art (The Great) Shires. Blackburne's one outing as a pitcher
came in his only appearance of 1929.
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 13, 1921:
Umpires in both leagues begin the practice of rubbing dirt into the balls before each game, using a special clay supplied by A's coach Lena Blackburne from his New Jersey farm.
»June 28, 1927: At Chicago, Lena Blackburne, filling in for manager Ray Schalk, ejected earlier in the game by Brick Owens, inserts himself as a pinch hitter in the 9th and singles. He comes around to score the winning run as the White Sox edge the Indians, 8–7.
»July 4, 1928:
Ray Schalk resigns as White Sox manager; Lena Blackburne replaces him. Blackburne will last one year and in 1930 will start selling his Rubbing Mud from the Delaware
River to the AL to use to take the shine off of baseballs. The NL will adopt it in the 1950s.
»January 20, 1930: Commissioner Landis bans boxing for all players in baseball following the brief boxing career of White Sox 1B Art Shires. His challenge to Hack Wilson purportedly prompts the ban. Shires fought several suspected bouts that resulted in his being suspended by the boxing commissions of 32 states but loses a desultory 5-rounder to Chicago Bears center George (The Brute) Trafton. Shires did win a punch out with Sox manager Lena Blackburne and two hotel detectives late last season.
»February 29, 1968: Former major league player and manager Lena Blackburne dies. Blackburne has been the source for his eponymous rubbing mud, used by umpires in both leagues to rub down new balls. He leaves the mud business to his boyhood friend, John Haas.