One hundred years ago, a hard-throwing but erratic minor league pitcher named Ben Henderson was getting ready for his opening day start for the Portland Beavers against the Los Angeles Angels. Henderson had pitched well for the Beavers the previous year, but he began the 1912 season with a well-earned reputation as an unreliable drunk.Be sure to read the whole thing.
Henderson gave a Los Angeles Times reporter a preview of what he had planned for the game. "I got a new curve this year," he explained, "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." The headline for the item, from April 2, 1912, was simply "Ben's Jazz Curve."
Also, an interesting point on virality: A few jazz blogs linked this story about three weeks ago, but it wasn't until yesterday when I saw any baseball blogs link it. The long-tail theory does not account for bimodality, but considering the overlapping interest clusters that comprise the internet, perhaps it should.
Photo of Louis Armstrong baseball tam via Uni Watch