Things You May Not Know About Pinball

“While it may seem quaint and nostalgic now, pinball has surprisingly illicit roots: It was declared illegal in New York City in 1942 because the machines were considered gambling devices, and according to news reports at the time police officers seized some 3,200 machines. Legend has the police smashing them with sledgehammers and hurling the remnants into the river, though actual accounts say that the metal parts were melted down to make bullets for the war effort. In any case, the law was finally overturned in 1976, when a 26-year old pinball wizard named Roger Sharpe predicted — and made — a predetermined shot in a courtroom, thus proving that pinball was not, in fact, a game of chance.”
 — Huh! I didn’t know that. (Or if I did know it at one time, I’d forgotten it.) So that means that The Who’s Tommy, which came out in 1969, was totally based around illegal activity — besides drugs and child molestation, I mean. There are a number of interesting things about pinball I didn’t know, it turns out. Like that Chicago’s Stern Pinball, Inc. is the last pinball machine manufacturer in the world. That makes sense, I guess, what with Xboxes and Angry Birds and whatnot. As does the fact that there is a competitive pinball league in New York and that its players say things like, “Just relax, take it easy, focus, and the ball will come to you.” Those guys are total Zen masters.