Pinball passion resparked

January 29, 2009
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At the tail end of an IBJ piece I wrote last week on Xscape, the amusement center at Lafayette Square Mall, I lamented the absence of pinball machines at the facility.

Growing up in the boardwalk town of Wildwood, NJ, and working in an arcade (I could unclog jammed Skee-Ball machine tickets in record time), I'm still drawn to those great, noisy mechanical games. A highlight of any visit to my daughter at IU Bloomington is always our rounds of pinball at the Student Union, where they've got a few machines tucked away by the bowling alley.

Apparently, I'm not alone in my passion for pinball. My review of Xscape sparked an e-mail from Trevor Eagleson, owner of Ace Game Room Gallery, with locations in Fishers and Fort Wayne.

He informed me that he's hosting a pinball tournament on Saturday and invited me to play along. It begins with practice sessions from 11:30–12:30 and, after a series of qualifications, leads to playoffs and an awards ceremony between 4:30–6:00.

Mini-tournements during the event include one in "Tommy Mode," meaning that "the flippers are obscured from view and the player must use other senses to score points." Sounds like some mean pinball to me.

Killing a Saturday playing pinball sounds like a great time. And while I won't be able to make it to the event, the invitation brought back a whirl of memories. I can still see the spinning disc at the center of Fireball, hear the noise of the ball launched up onto the track of Roller Coaster and remember the mocking voice behind 9 Ball Deluxe encouraging me to "quit talkin' and start chalkin'"

Any other pinball enthusiasts out there want to share some memories?

And do you know of any arcades, bars, or other establishments in town that still have pinball machines to play?
  • Mmm. Pinball Wizard and Jungle Queen. Classics.
  • If I had a pinball machine at home, I would never get anything else done.
    • When I was a teenager, I had a long love affair (I ended up marrying him) with a self-proclaimed geek and big-time pinball enthusiast. I learned to play at his side and have always loved the games. We used to play at a little hole-in-the-wall diner down in Southport. I remember how each machine seemed to have it's own personality....if you played the same machine at a different venue it never had quite the same touch as the one at the diner. I loved how you could really put your whole body into the games......i don't think you were supposed to lean against the machine just so, or hit the flipper buttons with such force, but it really added to the whole body experience to do that. Besides, different players that came in to play each had their own really made it somewhat of a cult following. Ah, those were the days some 36 years ago.........I can still smell the greasy french fries and hear the ding, ding, whap of the pinball machines.
    • Lou,

      SNIP - A highlight of any visit to my daughter at IU Bloomington is always our rounds of pinball at the Student Union, where they’ve got a few machines tucked away by the bowling alley. - END SNIP

      The Back Alley at the Indiana Memorial Union had 12 bowling lanes, 10 pool tables and a large arcade. Depending on the mood of the student body, there were tournaments even set up for billiards, bowling, pinball, and of course, the then latest and greatest -- Dance Dance Revolution.

      But sadly, the pinball machines at IU are also gone. Not sure the timeframe of when they disappeared completely, but definitely gone now. Bowling and billiards are still in step.

      Sorry to add to your pinball woes,
    • Lou,

      I came to post a link to my favorite pinball of all-time... Addams Family which I played regularly for a period of 3-4 years at a Putt-Putt golf, another dying institution.

      Little did I know, it is apparently the best-selling pinball machine of all time:

      Also link goodness to the Internet Pinball Database:

      Oh, this will definitely consume too much of my time today!
    • Pres,
      You had me worried.
      I just called over to the Back Alley at IU Memorial Union and was reassured that the pinball machines are still there.
    • If you go to Mr you will find a list of many collectors across the world. I have a complete pinball gameroom set up inside my home after playing them thru High School and College. Most of my games are from the Fireball era and are the games I grew up playing. Every year in Chicago (Oct or Nov) there is a HUGE Pinball Expo held over a long weekend. Very worth the trip! Don't worry Lou, we can have you addicted in NO time....just buying the first one leads to the next and so on....come and join the rest of us that never grew up....They aren't very expensive and can be bought, sold or traded amongst the other pinheads....
    • From Skylab in high school (early 70's) to Pinbot (later 80's) I was addicted. What memories!
    • Many, many, many years ago I bought a pinball machine (Skateball) as a present for my wife. At the time it still smelled of bar smoke and had about a month to go on the state of Texas tax license (which is still on it). We brought it with us when we moved here. It still works although it needs maintenance. The sad thing is maintenance costs more than what I paid for it ($350). But it has brought us a lot of pleasure and fun.
    • While I do not remember the names of the games, I remember MANY evenings spent palying pinball after dinner at the Pawn Shop Pub. This is where Binkley's is now located - at the corner of Kessler and College.
    • My girlfriend in highschool had a pinball machine in her basement. GatorBall. A Gator would occasionally come out and grab the ball if you allowed it to get to close. They would keep it turned off because it was a pretty noisy one if just left to the hey come play me sounds. So, we would turn it on and use those sounds as cover for our nightly trips to the storage room between the laundry room and the family room. Uh... so we could... Check for any broken seals on the home canned tomatoes and catalog her dads old issues of Life. Ahhhhhh pinball.
    • GREAT!
      I recently came across your post and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that it caught my interest and you've provided informative points. I will visit this blog often.

      Thank you,
    • pinball
      There are 5 machines in the Union at IU, where my son, a tall, handsome junior, plays with me at each visit to his campus. There are a few bars in indy that have machines. There is a place in Fayette, Indiana, north of Brownsburg on 267 (Jukebox Pizza) that has about 10 pretty good machines.
    • Pinball Search
      I grew up playing pinball in the pool halls of Haughville and have been hooked since. I have a sweet spot for the electro mechanical games but will try any game i see, since it's not often I see any at all anymore. Let me know if you know of any spots in town that still have tables.

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