No one can quite track the origins of ping pong, but it is believed to have originated from Victorian England. Though it seems elaborate and complex now, ping pong actually started as an off-shoot for tennis, which had at that time taken England by storm. Ping pong was originally an outdoor game that was quickly and transformed effectively into the indoor game that you love and appreciate today.

At the time, there were no ping pong balls, paddles, or tables. The elite men playing the game would transform the backs of cigar boxes and use them as paddles while stacks of books would be used as makeshift nets. Regular dining tables would be used in place of professional ping pong tables.

According to the International Table Tennis Federation, the game wasn’t patented until much later by an Englishman by the name James Devonshire. It was James that baptized the game table tennis. The person responsible for commercializing the sport, however, was John Jacques, a celebrated English sports manufacturer, as well as the founder of John Jacques and Son Ltd.

It was John that first laid out the rules of the game as well as sold the first table tennis equipment to the public. At the same time, competitors also launched their own less successful versions of the game, some of which went by the names flim-flam and whiff-whaff- these names, thankfully, never stuck.

Later on, Jacques rebranded, naming the game ping pong after the sound produced when ping pong balls bounce off the playing surface. It was also Jacques that is credited with coming up with the now-standard celluloid ping pong ball, which was designed to replace the much weightier cork and rubber alternatives that were being used years before.

Jaques’ new celluloid ball not only made it easier to play, but it also helped the game to grow and become more popular among the masses. Here are a couple more things that you ought to know about ping pong balls:

How exactly are ping pong balls made?

As mentioned earlier, ping pong balls were originally made of rubber before being covered using fabric. This method was gradually replaced by celluloid material. Celluloid is what gives ping pong balls its ivory white color.

Celluloid was a popular choice for manufacturing ping pong balls because it gives the ball a nice finish that grips the racket well and one that allows players to create the kind of spins that they are looking for. Today, however, celluloid production is on the decline and is slowly being replaced by non-celluloid balls that are made using poly-plastic material. 

Not all ping pong balls are created equal

When shopping for ping pong balls, you’ve probably noticed star ratings on the ball. These star ratings are essential because they determine the quality of the ball that you invest in. for instance, a ping pong ball that has a rating of 3 stars signifies that the ball is of the highest quality in the market.

Fewer stars indicate the lower quality of the ball. The star ratings of ping pong balls are as follows:

  • 1-star is most appropriately used as practice balls and may not be appropriate for use in competitive scenarios.
  • A 2-star rating is given for training balls.
  • For a ball to be used in professional tournaments, it has to have a 3-star rating.

Some manufacturers also like to give their balls 4 stars and 5-star ratings. However, based on ITTF regulations, 3 stars is the highest and most consistent measure of quality.

Ping pong balls are filled with oxygen

Almost all manufacturers fill their balls with oxygen so that the ball can attain the required weight. Some manufacturers have also tried using other gases, but they often make the ball heavier, which leaves oxygen as the best choice. According to experts, the oxygen in the balls is what gives it its bounce as well as help it to attain the proper dimensions.

Some manufacturers also use liquid nitrogen in place of oxygen to make their balls rotate faster than usual. When a ball is filled with liquid nitrogen, it is capable of rotating 10 times faster than a normal oxygen-filled ping pong ball.

All ping pong balls must meet regulations

As mentioned earlier, ping pong balls have different qualities and characteristics based on their texture, design, brand, and many other parameters. For ping pong balls to qualify for use in a competition or tournament, it must meet ITTF regulations. These balls must undergo a series of testing procedures to meet the federation’s specifications and properties.

The balls must be tested for weight, any deformities, rebound quality, size, as well as composition. For a ping pong ball to be considered worthy, it must meet the following parameters:

  • Deformation of 0.31 to 0.42 inches
  • Mass of 59.4 to60 gms
  • Size of 2.5 to 2.7inches
  • Bounce of 54 to 58 inches

Why do ping pong balls have different colors?

You may have noticed, that ping pong balls are available in an assortment of colors. Orange ping pong balls are utilized more for casual games that are held in ping pong bars, clubs, restaurants, and various game zones. These orange balls are preferred in such casual settings because they are visible, which makes it easier for untrained players to handle them.

The white balls, on the other hand, are more popularly used in competitive settings and tournaments. White balls are better and more visible owing to the blue table surfaces and red floors that feature heavily in competitive ping pong. The white surface easily stands out not just for the players but also for the live and TV audience.

The primary color of the player’s outfit should be different from the ball being utilized during the match. Before every tournament, the opponents must agree on the color of balls to use.

Final Thoughts

John Jacques changed the face of ping pong forever. Eventually, Jacques gave up the ping pong game rights to a well-known English distributor the Hamley Brothers. Much of ping pong has stayed the same since then, including the balls, which is a true testament to the everlasting power of the game.