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Monday, April 09, 2012

The Meaning Of The Word ‘Jazz’ Has Baseball Roots

No word yet on a possible Nesuhi Ertegun/Gyroball connection.

As Boston baseball fans prepare to celebrate the 100th birthday of Fenway Park, there’s another important centenntial involving the national pastime: it’s about how baseball gave us jazz. It turns out that the word “jazz” has an unlikely history. It starts 100 years ago with an obscure baseball player named Ben Henderson.

Henderson was a washed up pitcher with the Pacific Coast League with a reputation as an unreliable drunk, so his career never amounted to much. But back in 1912, he told a reporter about a new pitch he had developed, and became the first person known to use the word “Jazz.”

“And he told the reporter that he had a special pitch, a curve ball called “the jazz ball” that he was going to use, and he said it would completely flummox the batters because it wobbles so much you simply can’t do anything with it,” said Ben Zimmer, the language columnist for The Boston Globe and producer of and

Repoz Posted: April 09, 2012 at 04:44 PM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, music

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   1. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: April 09, 2012 at 06:29 PM (#4101686)
The word "jazz" comes from "jass," which was already in use before 1900, which comes from "chasse," which was in use earlier than that, and the entire etymolgical timeline is still disputed. This is like claiming the citation for "originating" the nickname "Vladdy" for Vladimir Guerrero, or calling Dave Kingman "Kong."
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: April 09, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4101696)
I never heard of a real soloist playing before the public on a Trumpet. One cannot play a decent song even, properly, on it, and it has sprung up in the last few years like "jaz" music, which is the nearest Hell, or the Devil, in music. It polutes (sic) the art of Music.

Letter from Herbert L. Clarke to Elden Benge advising Benge not to switch from cornet to trumpet, 1921.
   3. winnipegwhip Posted: April 09, 2012 at 11:47 PM (#4102391)
It was the time when foreign substances were allowed on baseballs and the noted term was actually a typo in the paper. The wrong vowel was typed into the word.
   4. PreservedFish Posted: April 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM (#4102398)
Wikipedia has a lively article on this. The article locates the most likely origin in the word "jism," which means exactly what you think it means.

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