The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about a tennis ball is its bounciness, optic yellow coloring, fuzzy covering, and distinct smell. Although it is easy to think the ball has always looked like this, since it has for the past few decades, there is much more history behind this ball…
The very first tennis balls, created by French monks in the 11th century, were made of good leather stuffed with wool. Scottish craftsman made a tennis ball from a wool-wrapped stomach of a sheep or goat and tied with rope. A slightly later tennis balls was found to be made of putty and human hair.
Not only is it disgusting to imagine playing tennis with the stomach of a sheep or human hair, but I can’t imagine what that ball would smell like! Also, I doubt that the ball would bounce at all . I can imagine a ball of putty and human hair sailing through the air after being hit then hitting the ground and dying. Thankfully, the ball has changed a great deal since its early beginnings.
This ball is a replica of the balls used in the 1870s. It is made from India rubber and had a flannel covering and that was hand stitched around the core. This is a far cry from a wad of hair!
This ball is the traditional white 20th-century lawn tennis ball. It is a little bit closer to what we think of as the tennis balls we use or see in the store. This ball is not made up of a rubber core but is actually two halves that are placed together through compression mounding. The outside covering changed from flannel to a melton cloth that tightly fits around the core.
This ball closely resembles the ball we are a accustom to. The optic yellow tennis ball was introduced in 1972. Up until this point the ball was either black or white.
So now that you know how the ball has evolved over the years, try to imagine hitting a white ball or a ball made out of hair. I don’t know about you, but I think I will stick to fuzzy, bright, and bouncy tennis balls.