Billiard Balls have an awfully long history and they are often overlooked when people think about the game of pool. Most people only see them as accessories, but the fact is they are absolutely indispensable to the game and their evolution is actually very interesting.
The first billiard games were played, believe it or not, with balls made out of wood. For obvious reasons, they didn’t stick around for too long since they were exceedingly difficult to carve into perfect sphere and they would be chipping and cracking really fast due to repeated contact with other balls.
As early as 1588, ivory was being used to manufacture billiard balls. At first, it seemed like the perfect material for that purpose; it was very solid and durable, and the surface was almost absolutely round. However, ivory came from elephants tusks; and since a mere eight quality balls could be produced out of a single tusk, the supply of elephants was quickly endangered consequently to the growing demand.
At that point, scientists were challenged to find a substitute material and a New York supplier even offered a 10,000$ prize to the first person to come up with a valuable alternative to manufacture billiard balls.
A bunch of tests have been done with various synthetic materials over the years. Some of them were decent, others were complete failures, but they definitely all helped to move towards the quality of billiard balls that are available nowadays.
In the 1870s a material called celluloid was commercialized, but was quickly brought out of the market because of its volatile properties in production. Because of this attribute, the billiard balls would occasionally explode during fabrication.
There is even an urban legend that says that the balls themselves would actually blow up during rough play; even though no reliable sources have ever proved the latter point.
Types of Billiard Balls
There are a lot of existing different types of billiard balls nowadays. One can even have a customized set done. Nevertheless, the two most known are certainly the international pool and snooker balls.
The international pool ball set consists of 16 balls. There is a white cue ball (sometimes with one or more dots on it) and 15 object balls; they are divided into solid color (1 to 7) and striped (9 to 15). Their color code goes as follow: yellow, blue, red, purple (sometimes pink), orange, green, burgundy (brown).
The eight-ball is black. In the game named after it, that ball is neutral and is to be pocketed last. That set of balls is used in several games such as eight-ball, straight, nine-ball, and a lot more.
The snooker ball set contains 22 billiard balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls, and 6 color balls each having a specific number of points related to it. The points go as follow: yellow (2), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6), and black (7).
And then there is Basepool. It can be played with international billiard balls since it uses the same number of balls. However, no distinction is made between solid and striped so only the color matter. There are 7 pairs of color balls, a black ball, and a cue ball.
The color balls are paired as so: yellows and blues (singles), reds and purples (double), oranges and greens (triples), and browns (part of the home run). Different shots using those object balls allows players to draw walks, bunt, steal, hit and run, sacrifice fly, take strikes, strikeout, and pretty much any other situation that occurs in the course of a baseball game.