I am participating in a Flickr group this year called 52 in 2013. Every week there is a theme for which we are challenged to create a photograph. this week’s theme is “Sport.” I knew I wanted to do something around baseball and began my search for an old ball to use in the shot. I did find some in an antique shop, but was a bit pricey. So, being a mixed-media artist with knowledge of all things distressed, I bought a new ball and took it through an “aging” process. I sanded it, filed it, buried it in my garden, then dug it up and sprayed walnut stain on it. Pleased with my results, I set up my still life and took the picture. When Brian came home, I shared my photo with him…bless him, he was impressed! He asked where I got the ball and I shared my story. He then shared a story with me about how the umpires for Major League Baseball condition new balls. I was inspired by his story and decided to do a little homework and discovered the following:
In 1920, Ray Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians was killed by a wild pitch with a new ball (which are shiny and slick.) Umpires began looking for a way for pitchers to get a better grip on a new baseball by conditioning it. They tried tobacco juice, shoe polish, and dirt from the infield. All of which damaged the leather of the ball.
Then, in 1938 Lena Blackburne, manager for the Philadelphia Athletics suggested using mud from a place he knew near his home in New Jersey, which he thought would condition the ball perfectly…and it did!
And so, umpires TO THIS DAY condition baseballs with Lena Blackburne mud, the official conditioning mud for Major League Baseball! This also means that I broke the official rules with my method of conditioning the ball. Please don’t report me!
Go HERE to learn more about this special mud