The Redleg Nation — that is, you guys — have done a rather expert job of finding info about the mud-slinging (or lack thereof, depending on perspective) that has started between the Reds and Cardinals since Wednesday night.
In case you haven’t heard about it, future Hall of Famer and present Cardinal pitcher John Smoltz walked five hitters in a game for, I believe, only the third time in his illustrious 21 year career and he wasn’t happy because the balls were slick.
I suppose it didn’t occur to him that he could rub the baseballs, too.
Or stop and blow on his hands, like everyone else.
1) The Cardinals accused Bronson Arroyo of having pine tar on his hat and were saying that he was going to his hat to get a foreign substance.
2) Every other pitcher in the game combined to walk 3 hitters in 15 innings.
3) Why would a Reds clubhouse attendant come by and leave open the suggestion the balls had been switched? That may be the oddest comment of all.
I know that Smoltz is reaching the end of his career, and that’s hard for anyone to accept. He wasn’t happy being demoted by the Red Sox either, which led to him to joining the Cardinals. He walked 9 in 40 innings with the BoSox this year; he’s now walked 9 in 38 innings with the Cardinals. And, yes, I know he’s fighting for a postseason rotation spot, but pointing figures at others doesn’t make him a better pitcher now.
Here’s one more oddity: a former Red, Lena Blackburne, is the guy who “discovered” the magic Delaware River mud that is used for rubbing up baseballs. In fact, here’s a website about the company that was formed that still provides the mud today. Apparently, developers took over the original “mud” site and the company had to “discover” a new spot from which to get the mud that is used to rub the balls and make them less “shiny.” Why do they rub the balls with this particular Delaware River mud? Here’s a quote from the website:
It all began in 1938 when an umpire complained to Lena Blackburne, a third base coach for the old Philadelphia Athletics, about the sorry condition of the baseballs used by the American League. Back then a ball was prepped simply with mud made of water and dirt from the playing field. The result? The ball’s cover was too soft, leaving it open for tampering. Something was needed to take off the shine but not soften the cover.
Blackburne took on the challenge. Next time he returned to his home in Burlington County, he checked out the mud along tributaries of the Delaware River until he found some muck (the whereabouts of the mud hole is still a dark secret) with a texture he felt would do the job. Taking a batch to the Athletics’ field house, he rubbed some balls with the stuff. It worked like a charm! What’s more, it had no odor and didn’t turn the balls black. The umpires were happy, and Lena Blackburne was in the mud supply business.
So there you have it. Mud on the balls from the Delaware River, to make the balls less shiny and for a better grip. Read the website for more.
Frankly, the big news in the story for me was that umpires don’t rub the balls any more…I didn’t realize that the teams employed someone else to do it. Seems to me that would be part of home field advantage and I’d rub the baseballs to my pitcher’s advantage every game. Are the Astros wrong to have an incline in centerfield? Were the Orioles wrong to mow the infield grass really low with Brooks Robinson at third and Mark Belanger playing shortstop to take advantage of their fielding prowess? Of course not.
I’m not saying anything was wrong with the baseballs, but they were all playing the same game nevertheless.
The best part about this is that there may be more of an incentive for a regional rivalry next year and that sounds like fun. Anybody for some mudslinging?