Actually a high ball can be any sort of mixed drink with whiskey. Believe me, I am old enough to know. As I recall, a high ball predates the popular rye and soda concoctions of the 30s 40s and 50s.
The history of the high ball goes back into the 19th century. As I recall the first high balls were invented in New Orleans in the 19th century and had very little resemblance to the 20th century concoctions.
The high ball predates soda, so the soda component is not really necessary.