When I was 10, there was THE ball. Of course we had other balls. But THE ball was the Spalding ball.
I usually only had one or two at a time. The other balls were sometimes things I made myself. For example, there was the sock ball. It was made out of several white socks. We used it at night to play home run derby in the back yard. There was the “masking tape” ball. Yes, it was made out of masking tape. Other balls were just worn out and ragged, covers almost off.
But THE ball was the Spalding. Bought and paid for but only used on rare occasions and never used on the gravel field at the church.
The dominant pitcher from 1871 to 1876 in the National Association for the Braves (then known as the Boston Red Stockings) was Al Spalding. Yes, he later formed Spalding Sporting Goods and made a fortune. From 1872 to 1875 they were a combined 205-50 (.804). Al Spalding won 186 of those 205 games.
In 1875 Spalding went 55-5 including a 24 game winning streak. It would be an understatement to say Spalding appreciated the value of THE ball. He would later make them like no other could. But only AFTER he learned how to throw it.