This article was published in partnership with Artsy, the global platform for discovering and collecting art. The original article can be seen here. Consider the tennis ball. The small neon orb is so ingenious in its design that it simultaneously inhabits the highest levels of perhaps one of our most demanding sports, fits snugly on the legs of faulty chairs and is favored by man’s best friend.
Broadcasting tennis in color brought the matches to life, but it made tracking the ball on screen difficult — especially when it fell near the white courtlines. So the International Tennis Federation (ITF) undertook a study that found that yellow tennis balls were easier for home viewers to see on their screens.
An official 1972 ITF rule change required that all regulation balls have a uniform surface and be white or yellow in color. However, despite the difficulties for TV viewers, Wimbledon did not change the ball color to yellow until 1986.
In 1991, the Chicago Tribune ran a story about white tennis balls making a comeback. In reality, as the article states, most manufacturers never stopped producing white balls in smaller quantities. Penn product manager Steve Morris told the Tribune that white tennis balls played on “nostalgia and collectors’ ‘edition sense.'”