Jimmy Ball grew up in Dauphin, Manitoba. After his graduation from Dauphin Collegiate, Ball studied Pharmacy at the University of Manitoba where he also achieved prominence as a track athlete. In 1925, Ball won both the Manitoba and Western Canadian titles. At the Dominion Championships held in Toronto in 1927, Ball won the Gold Medal in the 440 yard (now 400 metre) race and anchored the victorious Western Canadian relay team.
At the 1928 Canadian Olympic team trials in Hamilton, Ball thrilled the crowd when he set a Canadian record in the 400 metres during the preliminary heats and then reduced that record by almost a full second when he won the final race. Ball was selected to compete at the 1928 Olympiad held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
In perhaps the most exciting race of the Olympic Games, Ball won a Silver Medal as he finished just inches behind Barbutti of the United States in the final of the 400 metres. Ball was also a Bronze Medalist with the Canadian Relay Team. Following the Olympics, Ball competed in numerous meets, the most outstanding of which was a victory over the best U.S. team in the relay at the 1932 Milrose Games held in New York City. Ball's team-mates were Percy Williams, Alex Wilson, and Phil Edwards.
At the Los Angeles Olympiad of 1932, Ball won a Bronze Medal as a member of the Canadian One Mile Relay Team. This was Ball's last major international competition.
In 1933, Jimmy Ball was named Canada's Outstanding Athlete and received the Norton H. Crowe trophy. He is also a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.