(The). Ball Hughes, one of the dandies in the days of the Regency. He paid some fabulous prices for his dressing cases (flourished 1820-1830). Ball married a Spanish dancer.
He shirked a duel and this probably popularised the pun Golden Ball, Leaden Ball, Hughes Ball.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
More on Golden Ball from Infoplease: