Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Hi Jasper Born
Although that might sound like the name out of a bad sequel to Who's On First? ("I'd like you meet our new pitcher, Hi Jasper" "Sure, I'll say hello" "No, Hi Jasper" and so on) 'Hi' was actually a fairly common name in the early days of baseball, with six other players going by the name. It was often short for 'Hiram' but our man today was actually named Henry and the name seems to have sometimes been applied totally at random. 'Hi' as a greeting was first recorded in 1862 (although its origin is thought to be the Middle English 'hy') but it didn't get its nearly ubiquitous status until many years later which is around when 'Hi' as a nickname began to die out.
As for Hi Jasper himself, he had a four year career beginning with the White Sox in 1914 at age thirty-three. He saw limited time for the Sox in '14 and '15 and joined the St. Louis Cardinals where he pitched the most innings of his career (over a hundred for the first and last time) before dropping out of the Majors until 1919 when he saw action in just over eighty innings for Cleveland.
Besides his late age at reaching the Majors, there are two other points about Jasper that drew my attention. (Well, three points when you count his name, but I've already pretty well beaten that into the ground.) The first is a single reference to Jasper having only one eye. I have absolutely no idea if it's true, and if so it might go some ways to explaining his nickname (Hi/Eye sounding somewhat the same). Part of me doubts this is so in no small part because Jasper managed to hit a home run in the course of his career but then it seems like an odd thing to make up.
The other notable element of Jasper's career is that during the 1916 season while toiling for the Cardinals Jasper--and the rest of the team--wore what might have been the dullest uniforms of all time. The Cards (among baseball's sharpest dressers these days) bafflingly adopted the I-can't-be-bothered-with-uniform-design look in 1909 and kept it until 1918 when they finally came to their senses. For Hi Jasper however, 1916 represented the least interesting year in his uniform career.