It only feels right to start off Pinball Week by acknowledging the recent passing of pinball innovator Steve Kordek, without whom pinball as we know it may not exist. In 1948 Kordek was the first pinball designer to place a pair of flippers at the bottom of the playfield above the game’s “drain.” Before then pinball had evolved only marginally from its predecessor, bagatelle, and played less like modern pinball than another bagatelle descendant, pachinko, where players would have little to no control over the course of their ball once it left the plunger.
The addition of flippers to the game wasn’t Kordek’s idea—like many of history’s great innovations it was stolen, from his competitors at Gottlieb, who had put six of them at the top of their Humpty Dumpty game. But his decision to place one single, high-powered pair at the bottom of his 1948 Triple Action machine for Genco immediately evolved pinball from a game of chance to a game of skill and technique. (Although the specter of its history as a gambling machine is why pinball was banned in cities across the country even after flippers came into the picture.)