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Balls and the Sports Which Use Them.

Updated on January 27, 2011

Testicular Inury has been reported in ball games.

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Modern soccer ball as used in 2006 world cupGolf ball and its faithful shadowBaseball, superior to cricket say the Cuz'sHunting during cricket match as pigeon killed by thrown ball.Jai-Alai.  Fast and thrilling game ruined by bettingTennis Balls are a big disposal problemChampion snooker wizard, Ronnie O'Sullivan lines up a pot.      sky sports pic.Handball.  A smart, WIAA basketballIf you're this well endowed, best take up tiddlywinks!Official Field Hockey Ball.Three Lacrosse Balls, from Warrior's Neon RangeThe indoor, horse polo ball.  Has often hit Prince Charles in his precious goolies!
Modern soccer ball as used in 2006 world cup
Modern soccer ball as used in 2006 world cup
Golf ball and its faithful shadow
Golf ball and its faithful shadow
Baseball, superior to cricket say the Cuz's
Baseball, superior to cricket say the Cuz's
Hunting during cricket match as pigeon killed by thrown ball.
Hunting during cricket match as pigeon killed by thrown ball.
Jai-Alai.  Fast and thrilling game ruined by betting
Jai-Alai. Fast and thrilling game ruined by betting
Tennis Balls are a big disposal problem
Tennis Balls are a big disposal problem
Champion snooker wizard, Ronnie O'Sullivan lines up a pot.      sky sports pic.
Champion snooker wizard, Ronnie O'Sullivan lines up a pot. sky sports pic.
A smart, WIAA basketball
A smart, WIAA basketball
If you're this well endowed, best take up tiddlywinks!
If you're this well endowed, best take up tiddlywinks!
Official Field Hockey Ball.
Official Field Hockey Ball.
Three Lacrosse Balls, from Warrior's Neon Range
Three Lacrosse Balls, from Warrior's Neon Range
The indoor, horse polo ball.  Has often hit Prince Charles in his precious goolies!
The indoor, horse polo ball. Has often hit Prince Charles in his precious goolies!

In Some Cases, Woman Have Small Balls.

Life’s All Balls!

The equipment of sports world-wide today are subject to tight regulation as to the size, weight, dimensions and other particulars.

This is especially true of the balls which can play such a large part in the success or failure of a team. Many sports use balls and I am here to have a look at some of them.

The Football Association, or Soccer Ball.

Strictly regulated and designed by serious men - engineers - in white coats, the soccer ball has come a long way since the days when yokels, er, locals happily blew-up a pig’s bladder (after removal from the porker) and booted it around the muddy fields of Auld England, followed by a bewildered pig wondering why it was peeing out of its left ear..

The description of our modern soccer balls contain the following: Air (or air and gas) filled, (0.6 to 1.1 atmospheres pressure), circumference, 68 to 70 cm., weight, 410-450 grams. Leather covered, standard size, number 5. This ball has 32 panels of plastic or leather, 12 are pentagons, the other 20, hexagons. Various colours and designs are used for the finish these days.

The Royal and Ancient Gold Club of St. Andrews (and the US Golf Association) Regulated Golf Ball.

Weight 1.62 ounces, (45.95 grams), diameter at least 1.68 inches (42.67 mm).

Golf balls have been around for a long time, at least back to the 17th. Century, when they were made of wood. Later, they were constructed of leather stuffed with chicken, duck or goose feathers (The “Featherie”). These were used for the next 200 years and made golf rather a sport for the well-heeled (still is in Europe), as one ball cost the then amount of 2 shillings and sixpence, ($10, or £5 in today’s money). IN 1948, a Dr. Patterson discovered “gutta percha,” the rubber-like sap of the Sapodilla Tree, as a filling, along with a dimpled finish to the leather added distance and consistency to play and flight (rather like the rifling in a gun barrel perhaps). These were much cheaper but soon replaced by the wound balls used today. These have a solid or liquid interior wound around with rubber thread, inside a thin wall of leather.

Cricket Ball.

This is one spheroid that has changed little since its invention. It has a cork core, wound around with special string and sewn inside leather pieces with a 6-row seam also sewn in. IT must weigh 5.5 to 5.7 ounces and be 8 13/16ths. To 9 inches in circumference.

The woman’s balls are smaller (I wrote the whole hub in order to be able to say that!!).

Traditionally, Test and other First Class (County) cricket balls have been red; one-day game balls can be white, which helps at night (but also used in the day). Top cricket balls are rather expensive at £70 (about $140) each. The cricket ball can be a dangerous projectile which has taken several lives, or seriously injured, players, officials, spectators and at least one pigeon (see photo). People have sued in vain after being hit and hurt at the ground. Judges having taken the attitude that the facilities have done all they can and they couldn’t punish a sport that gave so much pleasure to the masses. (Judges are great cricket fans, d’y’ know!). I note with amusement that some injuries have been “testicular” in nature…it is a “ball” game after all!

The Ball in Baseball

Like a cricket ball but marginally harder, they say. Rubber and/or cork centre with one mile of yarn wrapped round it! Covered with leather and a seam stitched along two pieces in red on a white ball.

(.25 inches in circumference, also slightly fatter than a cricket ball).

Each game uses several dozen balls, mainly because they become discoloured with dirt and the effluence from players who chew tobacco and spit! Foul habit. A baseball hit out of the park in a major game becomes a prized item indeed as they have been auctioned for up to one million dollars! Players try to get such a ball back from the fans who catches it to add to their trophies and have often offered tempting artefacts as rewards. (such as signed bats, etc.). One was actually auctioned for more than $120,000 dollars and because it had been caught and impeded a player, costing their rivals the game, was filled with explosives and blown up like a small bomb! Expensive protest indeed.

The Pelota, or Jai-Alai Ball.

The hardest and fastest of the balls hit with bat, or, in this case, hurled with a “cesta,” or basket.. Made mainly in France or in cottage industries where Jai-Alai, a Basque game, is played. Made of hard rubber band, wound under tension, covered with linen thread, and finished with two layers of hard, cured goat leather. The 2,” diameter ball is ¾ the size of a baseball and somewhat harder and a lot lighter at 4.5 ounces. Interestingly, it is tested by bouncing the ball on a smooth concrete surface. The sound of the ball hitting the concrete has to have a certain sound, checked against the “ping” on a crystal goblet. I actually saw this being done when I was doing a special for the BBC on Jai-Alai some years ago. Balls failing this test are used for practice only. Players wear helmets to play and there are reports of deaths and injury, confined to players, because the audience is shielded by a wall-to-floor wire net.

Tennis Balls.

Once made of leather stuffed with hair or wool. Some found in Westminster Hall during restoration made of putty and human hair dated back to Henry 8th. Modern balls made of rubber mixed with up to 18 chemicals for consistency, etc. This mixture makes up 85% of the ball’s weight. South Africa provides 90% of all tennis balls and the felt is the most expensive component. Both pressurized and unpressurized balls can be found. The International Tennis Federation has laid down rules for weight, size and materials of balls. Bounce is determined by dropping a ball from 100 inches onto concrete; the ball should return 53 to 58 inches in the air to be acceptable. An ongoing argument by folks that should get a life is over whether the balls are really yellow or green. The answer, of course, is what balls? (The yellow ones!). Each year 300 million balls are made and they make 15,000 tons of hard to dispose of waste. Tennis balls are also used in other sports, such a beach cricket, etc., and as useful toys for the doggies. (A soggy, sandy tennis ball is a de rigueur accessory for any self-respecting retriever on the beach)

Snooker and Billiard Balls

Have had a long history and were first made of wood and clay. During this time, and for hundreds of years, elephants were slaughtered for their ivory, much of which went into making beautiful snooker balls now sought avidly by collectors. It took two mature tusks to make 14 balls.

In the mid 1800’s, the industry realized elephant ivory was on the way out and they looked for other materials. A competition offering $10,000 was won by a John Wesley Hyatt who came up with “nitrocellulose,” soon to be known as celluloid. (He apparently was cheated out of the reward). This didn’t really take as it was dangerous to produce, sometimes exploding in the factories. Urban legend has it that some balls exploded during a game when struck hard to break the reds, etc. There is no concrete evidence of this however.

Various materials were tried for the next some 50 years, including bakelite and crystallite. Today, sophisticated, high impact plastic is used by some companies, others produce sets made from phenol resins and polyester, as well as clear acrylic. It’s fortunate ivory is illegal because this industry has been so successful over the last 50 years, using ivory would have guaranteed the elephants extinction.

Handball Ball

These colourful balls look like small soccer balls. Must be made of leather or a synthetic with similar feel and properties. Surface must be non-slip for ease of handling and resin is sometimes added to improve friction for one-handed spins, etc. Sports facilities frown on this and some ban it, as the sticky resin gets all over the place.

Definite sizes are in force:-

Weight Size

Men. 425 to 475 g 58 to 60 cm.

Women 325 to 375 g 54 to 56 cm.

Youths 290 to 330 g 50 to 52 cm.

Ball speed is a fast as you can jump and throw it.

Basketball Ball

Have inflatable bladders like some old soccer balls. This is wrapped in fiber and covered with tacky, tactile leather to aid in holding and spinning, etc. Has ribs in contrasting colour (usually black on dull orange). There are balls designed for indoor/outdoor use, or solely indoor (more expensive). Balls need to be “broken in” before used in professional games.

The International Basketball Federation has very strict criteria for its certified basketballs: The ball must be size 7, bear the name of the manufacturer and a serial number. It must be made of either genuine or artificial/synthetic leather and must be free of toxic materials and materials which may cause allergic reactions. It must be between749 millimetres and 780 mm in circumference, it must bounce at least 1300 mm when dropped from a height of 1800 mm on a hard surface with a mass of more than 1 ton, and, heavier than other balls, it must weigh between 567 grams and 650 g. The ball must also pass a battery of rigorous tests: a fatigue test where it is bounced 20,000 times at a reference pressure without leaking any air, and then perform to specification when dropped from the reference height (1800 mm); a heat test where it is stored in a room for 7 days at 70C and show no difference in appearance or performance; a valve test where a dry inflation needle is inserted into the ball 100 times and the ball must not show any leakage afterwards; and a friction test where the outer surface must match or exceed friction requirements or perform to the testers' satisfaction in a practice game. The manufacturer of the ball must have been certified by FIBA, which entails submitting balls for testing and paying a $3,000 testing fee, paying $13,000 per year in licensing fees, and printing the FIBA logo on each ball. Any manufacturer may submit for testing and certification. Whew!

Specifications of basketballs excerpted from Wikipedia for your enjoyment! There is much more, you know where to find it: Wikipedia, bless their erudite balls, actually obviates much of the need for other writers these days!

Horse Polo Balls

Made from high impact plastic these days, though once from bamboo or even willow root. The outdoor ball weighs 4 oz., is 31/4 inches (8.3cm) diameter. The indoor version is larger - 41/2 inches or 11.4 cm and inflated.  Rumors that Prince Charle's cojones were used as a yardstick for the modern balls was largely discounted by Camilla saying they would be better used for marbles.

Lacrosse Balls

Interesting because the game was played by early, indigenous Americans: it then spread to Europe.

The first balls were made from deerskin and stuffed with hair from scalps collected by Indian warriors. OK, I made the bit up, but it was hair and who knows, right? Must have been some certain satisfaction for a brave to whack a ball which he knew had Custer’s golden locks in it! When the coup-counting Indians struck a plethora of bald US Army officers, knotted leather strips were used to stuff the balls. Dried scrotums? You said that, I didn’t!

Eventually, the leather and hair balls were replaced in Europe by solid rubber balls by George W Beers in Europe. (The Indians were all in reservations by then and had no room or scalps to continue).

A modern lacrosse ball is, as said, solid rubber; white is most common, but other colours are used. It is 7.75 - 8 inches (19.7 - 20.3 cm) in circumference; 2.5 inches in diameter (6.4 cm); and weighs 5 to 5.25 ounces (140 - 150 gms).

Two main companies make the balls: Warrior Lacrosse, who supplies the major league, and Brine Co., who supply the NCAA (collegiate) needs.

Field Hockey Ball.

Simple, plastic over cork: lttle info. available. Pictured is the only ball recommended by one authority for international play, The "Kookaburra."

The Fastest Ball in Sports…this may surprise you, it did me.

1) The shuttlecock in badminton at 206 m.p.h. Not really a ball, but worth a mention

2) No surprise, the golf ball when driven at 204

3) The Jai-Alai pelota, up to 190

4) Tennis ball top servers 155

5) Baseball drive 127

6) Baseball pitch (throw) 103

7) Cricket ball bowler up to 100 mph

( I don’t have the figures for a batted or thrown cricket ball which would undoubtedly be faster, especially off the meat of the bat on a drive for six, or perhaps a hook for six, using the bowler‘s speed as well)

8) Lastly, A volleyball spike 80.

(Fastest of all? A ball bearing tomcat With a 5 yard start on a vet intent on castration. Yeiouwwwww!) My granddad told me that one, I make no apology.

Few balls missed out :I’ll add them later if you can bear to wait….


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    • profile image

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    • profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago

      Ha! Witty commnet, Chef..Thanks for visit I played with the old soccer ball, too, it would kill the nancy-boys today!


    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      A wonderful laced football, of leather - orangey brown - with solid stitching was my introduction to football. How it increased in weight when the pitch was wet! And could put dents in your head. But it couldn't half be pinged on the volley.

      Great hub. Wonder what the Secret Policeman's looks like?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yeah, Terry, life's all balls allright. I guess the only Jai-alai this side of the border is in Miamai, or was.


    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 6 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      Amazed to see you say you missed a few balls out - there are so many balls described here! I didn't even know about Jai-Alai.

    • profile image

      Angela 6 years ago


      I have a vintage Slazenger bal land I am interested to know which sport it would have been used for.

      It is approximately 2.5" diameter, made of a heavy smooth granite-like material in off-white with greyish brown specks. It is imprinted with 'SLAZENGERS' and 'MADE IN ENGAND'.

      Any ideas?

    • profile image

      Sports Advisors 7 years ago

      And very popular was Basketball. :)

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks tectonic...I ran out of balls! Bob

    • tectonic profile image

      tectonic 7 years ago from Singapore

      Great article you’ve got. I run out of adjectives

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks Tom Taylor and soccerbetting. Sorry I took so long to address the comments, but when you have a few hubs as you know you never seem to be aware of later comments when time marches on...Bob

    • profile image

      soccerbetting 8 years ago

      Really nice hub.I really like the info that you have given on the Fastest Ball in Sports.

    • profile image

      Tom Taylor 8 years ago

      The title of this hub made ma laugh. Personally I love playing pool. My father got me into the sport and now I play it all the time. Great hub! Thank you! -Ken

    • profile image

      diogenes 8 years ago

      Yes. I don't really wanna comment on hubs that make money. It seems a lot of hastily compiled Asian cheesecake photos gets too much interest. However, live and let live.I am just happy to be setting the old quill to paper, really. I miss my daily columns in the newspaper business. Don't think we'll ever get rich like this!


    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      Bob, I know what I like writing about (mainly art, as you've probably gathered) but what I really fail spectacularly at is finding topics that make money! Oh, and the hub wasn't boring. Your dry sense of humour made sure of that!

    • profile image

      diogenes 8 years ago

      Hi Amanda. Hope you managed a little testicular tittering over the (boring!) hub. Hard to know what to write, isn't it?


    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      Hi Bob, what a lot of balls! This is certainly a comprehensive hub. I hear those old-style golf balls are worth a mint these days. Amazing what people collect.


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