Ever since I was a young boy

I played the silver ball.

When I was young I spent an inordinate—nay—an unhealthy amount of time playing pinball. I became an expert. I honed this useless skill in arcades, bowling alleys and, when I got old enough, bars. I was a bit of a delinquent, but not the dangerous kind. More like the loser kind.

You can get laid if you’re good with a pool cue. Billiards has a dark, poetic panache. They make movies and write books about pool players. But nobody gives a shit about pinball. Or bowling, for that matter. Anyway, technology marched on and my skill with the flippers became irrelevant.

Try to imagine my raw joy when I got news that Silver Ball Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame opened on the boardwalk in Asbury Park. They use to be located in a dank basement in downtown Asbury Park but now they’re right on the boardwalk. $10 bucks gets you an hour of play. Heaven!

Imagine a big room filled with working pinballs, all segregated by era. There are a few historical models from the ’40s and ’50s and a healthy representation of machines from the ’60s and ’70s. That cool cat in the bowling shirt is one of the owners and the other guy is a mechanic. My heros. [This is a partial view. It’s more than twice as big as what you see here.]

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Click on this pic and check out the artwork on the glass. Fantastic. It’s from the 60’s and suppose to be The Beatles. It’s very beatnik and hipster. Actually, if you care about this stuff at all, click on all the pics.

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This was one of my top three favorite pinballs to play. Fireball. When I saw it, I got a lump in my throat and longed for a big bong hit. It has a spinning disk in the center that sends your ball off into odd angles. Release Odin! My other two favorites are Satin Doll (which they don’t have yet) and Evil Knievel (which they do).

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Here’s a couple oldies. I remember playing Big Star (mumble-mumble) years ago.

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Many of the machines have placards that explain the history of that model; the designer, the artist, who manufactured it and how many were made. This is important stuff! I was a big fan of OXO and also played Space Mission. Space Mission came out when Skylab was orbiting the earth. How timely.

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When I told 8-Year Old Daughter I played pinball last night, she said, “What’s pinball?” My skills, by the way, have greatly diminished.

16 thoughts on “Ever since I was a young boy

  1. This post made me laugh. I went to the kind of progressive school where the music teacher taught the choir to sing “Pinball Wizard” for Parents’ Evening (mumble mumble) years ago. I still remember it.

  2. I love these!!! And I clearly remember my very first game of pinball, at a beach resort arcade in upstate New York. My dad showed me how. Thankfully, those Adirondack arcades are still populated with all sorts of vintage pinball machines, so Hedgie’s had a chance to enjoy!

  3. Oh giddy aunt I used to love pinball, all of our friends had competitions running and no one could get close to the machine when we were in the place. Once space invaders start to creep in the pinball went out. Hmmph!

  4. PG: I was exactly like the Pinball Wizard except I’m not “deaf, dumb and blind” and don’t have a cult following.Leah: I want to take my daughter but think 8 is still too young. She’ll get discouraged if she can’t do it.MT: I could take you guys, too, when you’re in the neighborhood.St. Jude: You’re right! Space Invaders was the beginning of the end for pinball. This place has Ms. Pacman and Galaga, but everything else is glorious pinball.

  5. from Soho down to Brighton, i must have played ’em all…oh, yeah… Space Mission. Beechmont Rollarena, 1970’s. that was my machine. owned it. (sigh)yet another reason to visit asbury park…

  6. babbling typos beyond comprehension required I delete and repost…without further ado:I work with a fella (turns out he’s an ex-Basking Ridge resident who was a classmate of yer wife until Freshman year of H.S….you may recall him from our wedding) who’s restoring his SECOND pinball machine. He’s really into it and he has me wishing I had some more time to spare, for playing his first operational triumph. For me the switch from Pinball to first generation of Videogames is similar to the abandonment of the LP for CDs. Now we have MP3s and Wii Stations, so don’t get me started…..Suffice it to say, there’s nothin’ like holding that 12″x12″ cardboard sleeve in your hand. Same goes for da pinball.

  7. PG: Does it count as a cult if you aren’t taking money from your followers?Daisy: When I wrote this post, I totally pictured you as a pinball queen.Nurse: I got a genuine chill down my spine when I walked in. Oh, my youth!JZ: You can throw skiing/ snowboarding into the mix, too. You can’t stop progress. You should tell your friend about this place. (Actually, if he’s restoring machines, he probably already knows.)

  8. How awesome! I love pinball…and i particularly like the older machines….i hated when they got all digital. Have to get me down to Asbury Park to check it out…will you join me?

  9. PS Did they have a model there called “Flying Carpet?” How’s about “Grenada?” Those were 2 that I distinctly remember playing in the coffee shop of the catskill mountain resort where my family spent the summers.

  10. Never played pinball … not on one of those machines. Also one of Bret Easton Ellis’ novels talks about a pin ball player. This character is a bit of a drug addict though …Sorry to hear about your unemployment stint.

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