Editor’s note: This is a new column about Palmyra nostalgia by local Will Valentino.
By WILL VALENTINO
Special to The Sun
Palmyra was home to Russell “Lena” Blackburne, who played baseball on local sandlots here in the early 1900s. Lena made history by being the first kid in Burlington County to make the Major Leagues, and then he put his cleats on and got serious!
Lena became famous for his discovery that the local mud he harvested from the banks of a secret Delaware River tributary near Palmyra could be used to take the shine off new baseballs to allow pitchers better control.
He hit pay dirt in 1938 as a coach for the Philly A’s, and Jim Bintliff, formerly of Delran, continues Blackburne’s tradition and exclusively supplies the mud to Major League Baseball.
In 2009, the Little League field at Legion Park in Palmyra was named in Blackburne’s honor after a proposal by myself and Jim May was accepted and Blackburne’s name was cast in bronze.
“Lena” Blackburne, whose nickname was derived from his lean physique as a young ball player, has become an international cultural figure over the years. While his invention got him a mention in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, there is also a children’s book written by David A. Kelly about Blackburne’s discovery and a beer named after him by Canada’s Left Field Brewery.
Amazing stuff from a Palmyra guy who changed the game of baseball forever!
Just a Blast From The Past, courtesy of Will Valentino.