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Baseball gave us the word “jazz?” Cool.

Apr 9, 2012, 5:45 PM EDT

Jazz Kings

This is from a couple of weeks ago in the Boston Globe, but I’m just seeing it now via Baseball Think Factory. File it under Stuff You Never Think About But Which is Nonetheless Cool: A hundred years ago a minor leaguer basically invented the word “jazz.”

It happened when one Ben Henderson, a pitcher for the 1912 Portland Beavers, told a Los Angeles Times reporter that he had a new curve ball he called a “jazz ball.”  It hit the paper on April 2nd with the headline “Ben’s Jazz Curve.” And then:

In a relatively recent surprise for etymologists, the latest historical research has located his quote as the first known use of the word “jazz”–which in a few short years would bounce from West Coast ball fields to the nightclubs of Chicago and beyond. Ultimately, it would become the name for a distinctly American music–and a term so monumental in its impact that the American Dialect Society in 2000 named it the Word of the Century.

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

  1. mdpickles - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    I’m surprised Ken Burns didn’t pick up on this!?!?

    • yankeesfanlen - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:52 PM

      Only if David McCollough had told him of it. Or his barber who gives him the Dennis the Menace look.

    • randomdigits - Apr 9, 2012 at 6:08 PM

      It is surprising that Paul Dickson didn’t pick up on it.

  2. cur68 - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Cool, man. If I have my way, baseball commenting will give the world “seal blubber” or, as I’ve come to think of it, “slubber”.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    I’m hip to the jive, Daddy-O

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      Excuse me stewardess, I speak jive

      • yankeesfanlen - Apr 9, 2012 at 6:14 PM
  4. jwbiii - Apr 9, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    As long as we’re on the jazz/baseball insection, here’s a clip of Baltimore’s backup catcher’s great uncle:

  5. ezthinking - Apr 9, 2012 at 11:36 PM

    Jazz is too cool to have such a lame beginning/explanation.

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