The Man Who Revolutionized Pinball Dies At 100

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Sunday the world lost a man who elevated a simple arcade game into an American obsession. Steve Kordek was Mr. Pinball. National Pinball Museum founder David Silverman talks to guest host Mary Louise Kelly Kordek and his legacy.


It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly. Today, the world lost a man who elevated a simple arcade game...


KELLY: ...into an American obsession.


KELLY: Steve Kordek was Mr. Pinball. Before he came along, the game looked totally different.

DAVID SILVERMAN: The other companies had games that were six flippers per game.

KELLY: That's David Silverman, founder of the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

SILVERMAN: Steve Kordek's big breakthrough was that he designed a game with two flippers instead of a lot of flippers on the game and in the position that they are today.

KELLY: That was back in 1948. The man was a revolutionary. Kordek went on to design more than 100 other machines. In pinball circles, he became a legend. Even into his 90s, he would get mobbed at industry events.

SILVERMAN: Every year, he would go to Pinball Expo in Chicago, every year, no matter what. And everybody wanted to talk and listen to his history because it was the history of pinball.

KELLY: Now, Kordek was not one of the original fathers of pinball but...

SILVERMAN: Wayne Neyens, Steve Kordek were the designers who made those companies great because they kept producing games that were just remarkable that the public continued to want to play.

KELLY: As for whether he appreciated the shift from arcades to the Internet...

SILVERMAN: As a guess, knowing him, anything pinball would've been great to him, whether it was online or offline. I'm sure he would've preferred offline and real physical games like I do, but I think anything pinball that man loved.

KELLY: Loved so much, in fact, that he spent six decades in the industry.

SILVERMAN: And for a man to have his whole career in one area that was such a fickle area, because there was highs and lows in the pinball history, is a huge accomplishment, absolutely tremendous accomplishment. And he was a great guy too. So the new people coming in, he was really a father figure to them.

KELLY: That's David Silverman of the National Pinball Museum, talking about Mr. Pinball, Steve Kordek. Kordek died this morning at the age of 100 in Park Ridge, Illinois.


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