Etymology
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hardball (n.)

1883 as the name of a game, from hard (adj.) + ball (n.1). The figurative sense of "tough, uncompromising behavior" is from 1973.

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Definitions of hardball

hardball (n.)
a no-nonsense attitude in business or politics;
they play hardball in the Senate
hardball (n.)
baseball as distinguished from softball;
From wordnet.princeton.edu