A baseball entrepreneur finds a solution to a long-standing technical problem.
Lena Blackburne was at best a journeyman player. He played several positions for several teams, and later, he became a coach just to remain a part of the game he loved. In the first part of the 20th century, new baseballs were hard to handle since they were too shiny and slick, so many different methods were used to dull them. Shoe polish, spit, tobacco juice and dirty water were all tried, but each caused additional problems, as did employing only old, beat-up balls for the entire game. Blackburne was determined to find a better way. When he serendipitously stepped into some soft, gooey, gritty mud at a fishing hole near his home, he brought some to the ballpark, tried it out on some new baseballs and produced perfect results. At first, he provided them only for his own team, but then he sold tubs of the mud to all professional teams. Eventually it became—and still is—the only substance allowed on any baseball. Kelly provides information about an unusual aspect of the game in a sprightly, entertaining story with a great “aha” moment. Dominguez’s bright, expressive double-page spreads follow the events closely and make them live.
For young fans who love the odd, fun details of baseball. (author’s note, statistics) (Informational picture book. 6-11)