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.”
The story starts in 1912 with baseball’s Pacific Coast League. Ben Henderson, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels invented a new pitch he called the jazz ball. From the Los Angeles Times, 2 April 1912:
BEN’S JAZZ CURVE.
“I got a new curve this year,” sofetly [sic] murmured Henderson yesterday, “and I’m goin’ to pitch one or two of them tomorrow. I call it the Jazz ball because it wobbles and you simply can’t do anything with it.”
As prize fighters who invent new punches are always the first to get their’s Ben will probably be lucky if some guy don’t hit that new Jazzer ball a mile today. It is to be hoped that some unintelligent compositor does not spell that the Jag ball. That’s what it must be at that if it wobbles.
The next day, the Times reported on the success of the pitch:
Henderson cut the outside corner with a fast curve also for one strike. Benny calls this his "jass" ball.