-THE "END OF AN ERA"
by Russ Jensen
A little over a week ago I happened to hear an announcement on a
radio "financial report" which caught my attention when I heard the
name "Bally". The report said that Bally Corporation was getting out
of the pinball and video game business after over fifty years! The
reporter said they were selling that part of their business to some
outfit called "WMS Industries" which I was later to find out was a
"holding company" for Williams Electronics, Bally's important
competitor in the games field.
At the time I heard this announcement I was in the process of
writing an article for COIN SLOT on another subject. After hearing the
sad news about Bally I felt compelled to write this tribute to Bally
and Ballygames, a subject which has always been near and dear to my
heart. Don't worry, however, my other article will be completed and
published in the future.
First I want to say a little about my personal fondness for Bally
and their products. Then I shall present a somewhat brief, but very
"pictorial", history of the past 56 years of Bally pinball games.
I AM A "BALLYFILE"
I consider myself a "Ballyfile" as I have, ever since I was a kid,
had a special interest and relationship with the products of that great
company. As most of should know by now, I got my "start" with pinball
when I was about twelve years old and was given two Bally pinball games
of 1939 vintage (VARIETY and VOGUE) by a friendly coin machine
operator. At that time I got the address of Bally Manufacturing in
Chicago and wrote them a letter asking if they could provide schematics
for these games. They did answer my letter, but said the drawings were
"no longer available".
As a result of that letter, I believe, I got on a Bally mailing
list and started receiving their company newsletter called "BALLYHOO".
This monthly publication mostly covered events at the plant and news of
the employees (births, marriages, etc.) and generally had little to do
But, the January 1953 issue commemorated "20 years of Ballygames"
and featured pictures of one game for each year (except during World
War II) from 1932 to 1953. The following is a list of the games shown.
I have since acquired several of these games which are indicated by the
asterisks shown in the list.
1932 BALLYHOO* 1941 41-DERBY
1933 AIRWAY 1946 VICTORY SPECIAL*
1934 ROCKET 1947 SPECIAL ENTRY
1935 JUMBO 1948 CITATION
1936 PREAKNESS 1949 CHAMPION
1937 BUMPER 1950 TURF KING*
1938 RESERVE 1951 SPOT LITE*
1939 VARIETY* 1952 BEAUTY
1940 SPORT KING
By the way, I kept that one issue all these years (probably
because it showed my first game VARIETY) and I think it was at least
partially responsible for reviving my interest in pingames in the early
1970's when I started my current pinball collection.
Ever since I started receiving BALLYHOO I have always remembered
Bally's address, 2640 Belmont Ave., which was their main address up
until just a few years ago. I was able to make use of that information
two more times in my lifetime.
The first time was sometime in the fifties, during a trip to
Chicago with my father, when I decided to pay a visit to the Bally
plant and ask for a tour. I was granted my wish and given a brief tour
of their assembly line. I only remember that they were producing a
"bingo pinball" at that time, but don't recall which one.
My next visit to the plant was in 1974 during a trip to Chicago
with my wife and kids. I had been into pinball collecting for about a
year at that time and had obtained a copy of a booklet, titled Coin
Operated Amusement, which had been written by Bally's long-time
advertising manager, Mr. Herb Jones.
This booklet had three main sections, each discussing a different
type of coin machine produced by Bally. These sections were "Slot
Machines", "Pinball Games", and "Arcade Games". The booklet was quite
well written, containing numerous footnotes. In the section on "slot
machines" Mr. Jones talked of the concept of a slot machine not
necessarily being a "gambling machine" but a form of "coin operated
The pinball section gave a brief history of pinball, included
detailed descriptions of the operation of some of it's components, and
ended with an article on the "Psychology of Pinball". There was also a
two page article on "Bingo Pinball", which featured a picture of
Bally's latest "bingo", BONUS-7. Other pins pictured in the pinball
section were FIREBALL and EL TORO.
Incidentally, a revised version of this booklet, containing the
pinball information only (minus the "bingo pinball" article) was later
released by Bally and titled "Coin Operated Pinball Machines". It had
a picture on the cover of Elton John standing next to a CAPTAIN
FANTASTIC machine. I still have copies of both versions of the booklet
and treasure them as great "Bally memorabilia".
Now back to my visit to the plant. Upon arriving in Chicago I
telephoned Mr. Jones, told him how much I enjoyed Coin Operated
Amusement, and of my great interest in pinball, and asked if I might
visit him at the plant. He told me he had just came back to work after
a serious illness and was only working a few hours each day. He did
agree, however, to see me if I would make my visit brief. I agreed,
and the next day went again to 2640 Belmont.
When I presented myself to the receptionist, she called Mr. Jones
and he came down to escort me. We first took a brief tour of the
pinball assembly line where they were assembling their current pingame,
SKY KING. As we walked along I remember he struck up a conversation
with an older lady working on the line. They seemed like old friends.
Later he told me that he had known her ever since she started at the
plant during World War II when Bally, as did the other amusement
manufacturers, turned from game production to producing war related
After the tour we went upstairs to Mr. Jones' office for a chat.
I told him how much I enjoyed his booklet and he told me that he had
enjoyed writing it and that it was originally prepared to be used to
help sell Bally equipment to the Italians. I then asked him about a
passage in the book where he quoted a person who he referred to as "a
veteran coin machine historian". I ask to whom he was referring since
I was unaware of the existence of anyone like that. He surprised me by
saying that the "historian" he mentioned was none other than himself!
(later in this article I will quote the passage to which I am
Mr. Jones told me that he started with Bally in the early thirties
when he answered a "Help Wanted" ad in the newspaper. He said he
enjoyed his work and had held the position of advertising manager for
some years. He also said he had the idea for the "Feature Gram", the
annotated playfield layout that Bally started using on the backs of
their pinball brochures. He also told me about the time he appeared on
the popular TV show "What's My Line" and that the panel was unable to
guess that he was in the pinball business.
Before I left he gave me an original copy of the August, 1966
issue of "Esquire" magazine which contained an article titled "Mother
Was A Pinball Machine", featuring an interview with veteran Bally game
designer Ted Zale. I already had a xerox copy of the article but was
thrilled to get the "original". Then, just prior to my leaving the
plant, Mr. Jones took me on a brief tour of the cable forming area
which was located in a building just across the street.
After that I said goodbye to Mr. Jones, thus ending one of my most
pleasurable visits with a coin-machine industry personality. I really
enjoyed talking to Mr. Jones and found him to be a "great man" and a
tribute to Bally and the industry he served for so many years.
Before beginning my chronological review of Bally pinball games
over the years, one final note concerning my personal fondness for
Bally products. When I once visited the late pinball pioneer Harry
Williams, and was showing him pictures of my pinball collection, he
remarked "why do you have so many Bally machines?". My answer to him at
the time was that they seemed easier to find. But, thinking about that
now, I don't think that was the real reason.
One reason that I have so many Ballygames is because I like all
forms of pinball games, including those with a primary "gambling motif"
(ie."One-Balls" and "Bingos"). Unlike some pinball collectors, I have
no prejudices against this type of pin. They have always fascinated me.
The reason for this is probably my fascination for their
circuitry. Being an engineer by trade this type of thing interests me.
I enjoy figuring out how various game functions are implemented, and
then watching them in action. And no one can dispute that One-Balls
and Bingos contain the most innovative and clever forms of electro-
mechanical circuitry ever devised by the pinball industry.
Enough about me and my personal association with Bally and
Ballygames. Now on to a brief history of Bally pinball machines from
1931 to 1988.
PICTORIAL HISTORY OF "BALLYPINS"
BALLYHOO TO BLACKWATER 100
The following is a brief history of Bally pingames from their
beginning in 1931 with BALLYHOO to 1988's BLACKWATER 100. This history
will be illustrated by pictures of games, both from my personal
collection as well as the collections of others.
BALLYHOO - The first Ballygame, as most of you know, was a small
counter-top game called BALLYHOO which was first produced late in 1931.
The following is an excerpt from the Herb Jones booklet mentioned
earlier describing the origination of ballyhoo:
"On a gloomy day in October of depression-
clouded 1931", writes a veteran coin machine
historian, "a young businessman, Raymond T. Moloney,
after hours of stubborn argument, persuaded his
senior partners in a small Chicago printing shop to
join him in a bold venture." "As a result of their
decision, a simple but fascinating color-splashed
pinball game was introduced to america late in 1931.
By the time 1932 dawned, under darker depression
clouds than ever, the rainbow-bright game, BALLYHOO,
was a national sensation. 50,000 BALLYHOO games were
sold in a period of 7 months."
The name (and the idea for the playfield artwork, I am told)
for this game was taken from a popular satire magazine of the
day. The details of this story, I believe, will be told in
Volume 2 of Dick Bueschel's projected series of pinball books.
At any rate, when ray moloney decided to form a company to
manufacture his games (I believe he contracted to D. Gottlieb &
Co. to manufacture his first BALLYHOOs) he called his new company
"Bally Manufacturing" after BALLYHOO, and thus that great company
Well, there you have it, a very brief account of how the
Bally company first got started and their first product, the
pioneer pingame BALLYHOO.
AIRWAY - After playing any of the early pinball games (such
as BALLYHOO) the player, at the conclusion of a game, had to
locate the hole into which each of his balls had landed. He then
had to add up the values of the points indicated next to each
hole in order to determine his total score.
Early in 1933 Bally came up with a quite sophisticated
design for it's game called AIRWAY. When a ball dropped into one
of the scoring holes a metal cover would close over it and the
ball would roll down to a "scoring area" at the bottom of the
playfield. This action would cause a "score indicator" to flip
into view displaying the value in points of the hole into which
the ball had fallen. The player still had to add up his total
score, but the job was made easier since he did not have to look
for the balls, but only to add up the points indicated in a neat
row at the bottom of the playfield.
ROCKET - One of the significant events in early Bally
history (and pinball history, for that matter) occurred late in
1933 with the introduction by Bally of the first electrically
operated (by batteries) automatic payout pinball, rocket. This
was the beginning of the craze for "payout pinballs" which was to
last for many years to come. It was also about that exact same
time that pinball pioneer harry williams created the first
electrically operated amusement pinball game, his famous contact.
The significance of this event, and some of it's immediate
repercussions, were described in part 10 of coin machine
publisher bill gersh's series of articles "pictorial history of
pinball" Appearing in the april 1981 issue of his trade
publication marketplace. Bill's article stated:
Bally ROCKET, the very first, the no. 1, created
more than a sensation. it started much controversy.
There were a few noted manufacturers who loudly
proclaimed, "this is the end of the pin game industry."
Yes, Bally ROCKET was the very first one-ball
automatic payout game. An all electric game. Simple.
Easy to understand. Easy to play. Wherever it was
located it brought in more coin than any game had ever
before earned in that very same location.
In fact, Bally ROCKET captured more coin than had
slots in the same locations. This news, when it leaked
through to the top slot makers who, at first, couldn't
believe any game could earn as much as a slot, got them
started building One-Ball payouts.
But the one-ball automatic payout, Bally ROCKET,
did not "end the pinball industry." Fact of the matter
is - it stimulated greater effort which, in turn,
resulted in outstanding sales. And because Bally
ROCKET was priced high - pinballs increased price to
Looking back to 1934 at this great ten trap
pocket game, with the payout cup on the side of the
game, the black cabinet trimmed in chrome, the speedy
action payout, all in all this was truly a wonderful
development and was destined to open wide the industry
to electric automatic payouts for years yet to come.
BUMPER - While introduction of electric payout pingames with
ROCKET was extremely significant as it introduced "payout pins"
to the industry, Bally's biggest claim to pinball history fame
had to be the introduction of an innovative new scoring device
used on their revolutionary new game BUMPER, released late in
1936. This device, which came to be called the "Bumper" after
the name of this game, consisted of a coiled spring of wire
suspended from a metal post which, when hit by a ball in play,
both made an electrical contact (to complete a scoring circuit)
and caused the ball to bounce away from it adding "action" to the
With the exception of the "One-Ball Horserace" format payout
pins (to be discussed next), within a few months the "bumper"
began appearing on most of the pinball games, both "Novelty" and
"Payout", being produced by many game manufacturers of the day.
And as you know, a form of this device, still called a "bumper",
appears on all the latest solid-state electronic pingames of
today. No one can say that the introduction of Bally's BUMPER in
1936 did not have a truly profound effect on pinball games from
that point on.
For those of you interested in the history and development
of the "bumper" I refer you to my article "The Evolution Of The
Bumper" in the summer 1985 issue of COIN SLOT.
FAIR GROUNDS - In the mid 1930's, payout pinballs appeared
in many forms. The simplest were games in which holes on the
playfield had numbers next to them indicating the amount (in
cents) to be won if a ball was placed in that hole by the player.
A more complicated motif of payout pin, which developed in the
mid thirties and lasted until they were virtually outlawed in
1951, was the so-called "One-Ball Horserace" Pinball.
These games had originally three, and then four, sections of
holes on their playfields labeled PURSE, SHOW, PLACE, and WIN,
starting at the top. Each section contained either 7 or 8
numbered holes into which the one ball available per game could
At the start of each game one or more numbers (of the 7 or 8
available on the game) would be lit on the game's backboard. In
order for a player to "win" he had to get his ball into a hole
corresponding to a lighted number in one of the "sections" on the
playfield. "Odds", indicating how many coins the player would
receive for matching a lighted number in each section of the
playfield (WIN paying the most), would also light on the
backboard at the start of each game.
Bally's FAIR GROUNDS of 1937 is a good example of how this
type of pingame looked. It is interesting to note that most of
these games had massive cabinets which extended nearly to the
floor, rather than being mounted on legs as was customary with
other pins. A little later in this article you will see two more
games of this type made after the war and will notice that their
basic format was not much different from their earlier
GOLDEN WHEEL - As I stated earlier, the new "bumpers"
introduced on Bally's BUMPER began to be used on "payout", as
well as "novelty" pingames. A fine example of a "bumper payout"
pinball was Bally's GOLDEN WHEEL which appeared on the market in
late 1937. The playfield of this game was literally covered with
spring type bumpers. The game was beautifully made, and had an
extremely interesting play concept as explained in the words of
collector Jack Atkins of Ogden Utah who is the proud owner of one
of these fascinating games.
Produced during the fast-changing pinball year of
1937, Bally's GOLDEN WHEEL used a scoring system which
was different from most other games, both payout and
novelty. The GOLDEN WHEEL was a 1-ball payout with 27
spring-type bumpers spaced uniformly across it's
playfield, and a kicker positioned about 3 inches above
the bottom center. The "payout hole" was located at
the bottom in the place usually occupied by the "out
hole" in most payout pinballs. When the ball finally
ended up in this hole, after hopefully hitting many
bumpers first, it closed a switch located at the bottom
of the hole. If the final score was one of those which
were lighted on the backglass, the player was rewarded
with the number of nickels indicated in the "Odds
Section" of the wheel which ranged from 2 to 40.
During play one point is added to the score every
time the ball contacts one of the bumpers. This score
is projected from behind the backglass onto a frosted
area in the center of the wheel. Since the game uses a
scoring increment of only 1 (instead of 10 or 100) it
was possible for the game designers to set up the
entire scoring range of 1 to 40 on the upper half of
the wheel in a very simple but visually striking
design, with the forty numbers divided into four
semicircular sections as shown in the backglass photo.
The "Winning Selections" are lighted from behind
the backglass in vertical groups of four, with one
number in each of the four semicircles (for example,
1,11,21,31 or 4,14,24,34). Thus there were 10
Selection Groups from which the potential winners were
chosen randomly at the start of each game. Since there
were ten selections, instead of the seven offered on
most of the "horserace pinballs" of this period, GOLDEN
WHEEL offered two or more selections more frequently
than did the horserace machines. Examination of the
backglass photo shows that the odds layout, located on
the lower half of the wheel, is exactly the same as
many of the 1937 horserace games like Bally's PREAKNESS
or ARLINGTON. Like the number selections, the odds on
GOLDEN WHEEL were chosen at random when each new game
One other interesting fact should be noted about
the GOLDEN WHEEL scoring. When the ball is shot onto
the playfield it usually follows an irregular path and
"bumpity-bumps" it's carefree way down towards the
kicker where it will, if it makes contact, receive a
boost back up for a return trip down the board.
Theoretically, a down-again, up again pattern
could continue until the score reached the top of the
register (43 points), but unfortunately for the player
the ball seldom made more than one encore via the
kicker. This seems rather surprising since the guard
springs on each side of the kicker are spread apart
invitingly and it appears relatively easy to enter the
kicker zone for another go-around at the bumpers. But
in practice a score above 20 is unusual and more than
30 very difficult. The game designers were obviously
well aware of this fact because there was a standing
award of 40 nickels for any score above 40. Winning
this prize was probably not a common experience for
even the most dedicated players of GOLDEN WHEEL.
BROADCAST - In addition to their many varieties of "payout"
pingames, Bally also produced many games which fit the "novelty"
(the general term used in the mid thirties and forties to refer
to a "non-payout" game) category. One example of such a game was
Bally's broadcast of 1941.
The game was well constructed (as were all Bally games) and
utilized the latest form of bumper made of molded plastic,
somewhat similar in looks to the bumper still in use today. The
game offered "free games" (or "replays" as they were often
called) to players for obtaining certain scores. Games such as
these, however, could also be used for gambling if the location
owner redeemed for cash the "replays" the player had won.
Adding to it's lure as a gambling pin was it's feature,
called "Top-O-Dial", by which a player, by completing certain
game objectives, could win 25 to 75 replays at once, the value
awarded being preset by the owner of the machine. Bally, as did
many pinball manufacturers of the mid thirties, realized that
"pinball gambling" was "where the money was" in the games
business and either made direct payout pingames or "novelty"
games, such as BROADCAST, with features which allowed them to be
used for gambling if desired.
VICTORY SPECIAL - Bally, as did the other amusement industry
manufacturers, quit producing amusement machines during World War
II and converted their factories to producing war related items
"for the duration". After the war ended, Bally was one of the
first to again begin game production.
The first Bally pinball games to come out after the war were
a pair of One-Ball Horserace games called VICTORY SPECIAL and
VICTORY DERBY, the "victory", of course, commemorating the allied
victory in the war. The only difference between these two games
was that the latter was a "direct coin payout" machine, while the
former only gave "replays".
In form these games were quite similar to the one-ball games
made prior to the war, such as FAIR GROUNDS which was discussed
earlier. Bally continued producing this type of game (often in
"payout/replay pairs") until the early 1950's. One of the later
models will be discussed shortly.
BALLYHOO (again!) - Gambling motif games (such as the One-
Ball Horserace games) were not the only type of pinball produced
by Bally in the late Forties. A good example of their "novelty"
production was BALLYHOO (yes, it was named after the first
ballygame, and no, it wasn't the last BALLYHOO, as a four-player
game of 1969 also bore that famous name) which came out in mid
1947. This BALLYHOO was a flashy novelty game employing some of
the new diamond shaped bumpers which were very popular at that
time. It also featured many "kickout holes", first used to any
great degree by Exhibit Supply just before the war, and used on
almost all novelty pins after the war, and still in use today.
A few months after BALLYHOO was released, D. Gottlieb & Co.
revolutionized the pinball industry (greatest innovation in
pinball since Bally BUMPER) by introducing the "flipper" on their
HUMPTY DUMPTY. Shortly after that Bally introduced their first
"flipper game", MELODY. Bally produced some flipper games in the
late forties, but their "big item" was still their fine "One-
TURF KING - Bally made two significant improvements in their
One-Ball Horserace pinballs in 1949. CITATION introduced what
was known as "Guaranteed Advancing Odds" which meant that the
"payout odds" would either increase, or stay the same (but never
decrease) with each additional coin deposited at the start of a
game. Shortly after that "Reflex Play" was introduced in
CHAMPION. The "reflex" circuitry caused the game's special
features and odds (which the player tried to enable or increase
at the start of each game by depositing additional coins) to
become harder to obtain if the player had recently received a
large "payout(s)", and easier to obtain when the player had
deposited many coins without winning.
Then, in the Spring of 1951, Bally brought out TURF KING,
their most sophisticated one-ball to date, which was advertised
as a "5-Button Jumbo Pingame". The game had four buttons on it's
front rail which the player could use to manually select which of
the game's special features he wanted to try for when inserting
extra coins at the start of a game. A fifth button gave him a
chance at all of these features.
SPOT-LITE - It wasn't too long after TURF KING that "One-
Balls" were, for all practical purposes, "outlawed" by being
included in the classes of machines covered by the new Johnson
Act. This law forbade interstate shipment of "gambling devices",
except into states which allowed them. This was a big blow to
Bally of course since "One-Balls" at that time were one of their
big money makers.
As a result of this, an entirely new type of pingame was
designed which could take the place of the old reliable "One-
Ball". These "In-Line" games, as they were first known, used 5
(or more) balls, instead of 1, and required the player to light a
row of 3 or more numbers on the backglass in a 5 by 5 matrix in
the form of a common "bingo card". For this reason these games
soon became known to players as "Bingo Pinballs".
Bally and United became the chief manufacturers of these new
games, with a few being made by other outfits such as Keeney.
Bally's first "Bingo" was called BRIGHT LIGHTS and came out in
the Spring of 1951. Late in that year they came out with SPOT-
LITE which had "advancing odds", like the later one-balls, and a
number "spotting" feature which could cause "free numbers" on the
"bingo card" to be lit up when extra coins were deposited at the
start of a game. The playfields of these games contained 25
numbered holes (similar to their predecessors the one-balls) and
had no flippers or bumpers like the "amusement" pins of the day.
BALLS-A-POPPIN' - Producing "Bingos" kept Bally busy in the
early and mid Fifties. Although basically similar in format (ie.
Lighting numbers in a pattern on the backglass "bingo card") a
host of "special features" were devised by the Bally game
designers, which gave each game an "intrigue" of it's own.
it wasn't until mid 1956 that Bally decided to produce
another "flipper pinball". This game, called BALLS-A-POPPIN',
was an early ancestor of today's "multi-ball" pingames, in which
a player could qualify to have more than one ball in play at a
time (without using up his allotted 5 balls per game). On BALLS-
A-POPPIN' this was referred to as "Wild Balls".
Most people today think that this was the only flipper game
produced by Bally from the early Fifties up until 1963 when Bally
began regular flipper game production. This is not true,
however, as Bally came out with two other flipper games in mid
1957. These games were called CIRCUS and CARNIVAL (not to be
confused with the Bally game of that name released in 1948).
They were both "two-player" games, but CIRCUS, unlike the
"multi-player" games being produced at that time by Gottlieb and
Williams,, used "lighted panels" on the backglass to display each
player's score, rather than digital "score reels". CARNIVAL, on
the other hand, apparently used "reels", as an article announcing
the game, appearing in the November 1957 issue of Coin Machine
Journal, stated "Rotary totalizers indicate each player's score
at a glance." While BALLS-A-POPPIN' is quite rare today, these
two games are even rarer!
It is also interesting to note that even though BALLS-A-
POPPIN' and CIRCUS used lighted panels on the backglass for score
indication (rather than "score reels") they both used scoring in
units of "1", rather than "10,000" as most other "light-scoring"
games of that period used.
BIKINI - Bally "Bingos" were quite popular in many
localities throughout the early and mid Fifties. Until 1957 they
were exempt from the Johnson Act, but this was to change. A
court case, U.S. versus Korpan, resulted in bingo pinballs being
made subject to the Johnson Act restrictions on interstate
shipment of "gambling devices". This did not stop shipment of
bingo pinballs altogether, however, since they could still
legally be shipped into states which allowed their use.
The demand for these games in "legal states", such as
Tennessee and South Carolina, and foreign markets, kept the
market open and Bally designers were constantly improving the
games and making them more exciting to play. The introduction of
the "Magic Screen" bingo card on CARNIVAL QUEEN late in 1958 gave
the player the capability of actually changing the "winning
patterns" on the card, if he qualified to do so during the
insertion of extra coins before he shot the first ball.
To most "bingo pinball" players the so-called "OK Bingos",
such as BIKINI from 1961, were the "epitome" of pinball play. In
addition to employing the "Magic Screen", these games had a
special screen section (the "OK Section") in which lighting 3 of
it's 4 or 5 numbers gave the player guaranteed minimum "odds" and
"special features" in the next game played, without depositing
the usual "extra coins". Even though Bally came out with other
ideas in bingo pinball (such as the "20 hole" machines) in later
years, the "OK Games" were still considered by many players as
the "ultimate bingo pinball".
MONTE CARLO - it wasn't until early 1963 that Bally decided
to re-enter the "flipper pinball" field. Their first flipper
game in about 5 years (and, as I said earlier, they hadn't made
many in the past 10 years) was MOON SHOT, coming out early that
year. These new Bally flipper games were very attractive and
well built. In fact, in my opinion, Bally games have always been
extremely well built when compared to games built by many other
manufacturers. I even consider Ballygames to be "the 'Cadillac'
One of the finest ballypins of that period was MONTE CARLO,
which came out almost exactly one year after MOON SHOT. An
interesting feature of this game was it's casino table "hold-
over" feature, with it's associated "Big-Win" feature. Lighting
all of the letters of "Big-Win" lighted the next number in the
"1-10" number sequence on the casino table on the backglass
which, when completed, scored 3 replays.
Both the "Big-Win" letters and the "1-10" numbers were
"held- over" from one game to the next as a "come-on feature" to
attract people to play the game, especially when the "1-10"
sequence was almost completed. This idea was probably borrowed
from many of the earlier Bally One-Ball Horserace games which had
"Spell-Name" features (also held over from game to game) Where
lighting all the letters in the name of the game on the backglass
awarded the player a large number of replays, or some special
feature in the next game played.
In addition to it's intriguing play features, MONTE CARLO
had very colorful artwork, and featured brightly lighted pop
bumpers adding to it's aesthetic appeal. All in all, it was a
true "classic" of the early Sixties Bally flipper games which
ushered in a new era of Bally flipper pins.
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC - Bally continued making their flipper
games once they restarted them in 1963. Between 1963 and 1975
they produced generally between 6 and 10 new models a year, with
the exception of 1970 when they made a whopping 13 different
The release of the "rock opera" Tommy in 1975, which
featured a pinball playing theme, was said by many to bring about
a resurgence in interest in pingames by young people. Bally
produced two games around that time with a "Tommy theme". The
first was WIZARD, coming out in the Spring of 1975, which
featured caricatures of the movie's stars, Ann Margaret and rock
singer Roger Daltry.
About a year later Bally released CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
featuring rock star Elton John on it's backglass. The fantastic
artwork on this glass, by Bally's ace pinball artist Dave
Christensen, depicted the pinball tournament scene from Tommy
which pitted "pinball wizard" Elton against the blind, deaf, and
dumb newcomer, Tommy.
This glass also had another very appealing feature. It was
the first "amusement type" pinball for many, many years (probably
since the late Forties or early Fifties) to employ a "mirrored"
backglass. After that time, however, this type of glass became
popular again on most of the solid-state pins of the Eighties.
THE COMING OF SOLID STATE- Bally was certainly one of the
pioneers in the development of "solid-state" pinballs. According
to Bally service manager ed schmidt, speaking at Pinball Expo
'87, the prototype used during development of their first solid-
state system was an electro-mechanical BOW AND ARROW which they
converted to "digital". Proof of this was also demonstrated at
that same show when Expo co-producer Mike Pacak found and
purchased one of those prototype machines and showed it in the
Mr. Schmidt went on to say that the first production machine
to use this new technology was FREEDOM, which was released late
in 1976. The second Bally "digital", he said, was EVIL KNEIVEL.
Following that was EIGHT BALL with a caricature of "Fonzie" of
Happy Days fame on it's backglass. They also produced "digital"
and electro-mechanical versions of a few pins, such as NIGHT
Bally produced an average of about 7 new solid-state pins a
year between 1978 and 1982, this average dropping off to about 5
new pins per year between 1983 and 1987.
STRANGE SCIENCE - A typical example of the Bally solid-state
pingame production of the mid 1980's was STRANGE SCIENCE, one of
the new Bally models displayed at Pinball Expo '86.
The theme of this game probably came from the movie of the
same name. The "strange" artwork on both the playfield and
backglass fit very well with this theme. The fast action and
strange sound effects used on these games certainly fits into
this modern age in which we live.
BLACKWATER 100 - What appears to be the last of the long
parade of Bally-produced pingames (well over 500 pins between
1931 and 1988) is the current game, BLACKWATER 100. The theme of
this game is a well-known motorcycle ("dirt bike") race occurring
each year in the swamps of West Virginia. This game so much
simulates the actual race that race promoter, Dave Coombs, was
quoted as saying to the motorcycle enthusiast press "When you
play the game you're going to work up a sweat, just like when
This was reported in an article appearing in the May 1988
issue of the coin machine trade magazine REPLAY, which went on to
describe the play of the game as follows:
The game starts out very fast-paced, just like an
actual race. Three balls ("racers") are at the
starting gate and the player watches the Red-Yellow-
Green light countdown for the start. Should the player
properly anticipate the green "GO" light, and press the
button to drop the starting gate, the balls are
released one at a time and the player is rewarded with
the bonus of 250,000 points for making this "hole shot"
(racing term for being the first to the first turn.
Once you've got all three balls on the playfield,
the idea is to land two of them in saucers, which are
then held for an operator-adjustable amount of time.
Then you've got one ball to control around the
different areas of the playfield.
Since the real race is three laps long, the
pinball is set up the same way. There are eight
different "sections" to each "lap" of the blackwater
"course" - Cliffhanger, Rocks, Swamp, Highway 93,
Rapids, Hill Climb, Bog, and Downhill. These
correspond to parts of the actual race. One section
light will flash at a time (the player can move it by
using a button). Completing a lit section, of course,
increases the points. In addition, playing the bottom
playfield is called taking the "fast line" through a
section. In much the same way as you would on the race
course, you're picking the quickest and easiest route.
Well, there you have it, a brief pictorial history of the
last 57 years of Bally pinballs, along with the story of my
personal association and feelings about Bally and Ballygames.
Maybe it's "the end of an era", or maybe not, at least it's the
end of "amusement" game production by the Bally organization.
After I was about halfway through writing this article I
received additional information regarding the "Bally sale". An
article with that title (subtitled "WMS to buy Bally pinball and
video assets; will keep it going as separate entity"), appearing
in the August 1988 issue of REPLAY, gave more details of the
This article brought out the fact that the Bally brand name
on flipper games and videos will not be "retired" by the buy-out,
stating that "Williams had not purchased a competitor to remove
it from the map; but acquired a whole new division which will be
run in a reasonably autonomous fashion, complete with separate
sales and R & D staffs". It was also pointed out that the R & D
people at Bally/Midway, for the most part, will be invited to
join the new organization.
It went on to describe exactly what Williams was "buying".
This, it said, included the Bally brand name for "amusement
products" and a cabinet/assembly factory (which it said was "a
big part of the deal") including all tools, dies, jigs, etc.
Also included were the rights to past, present, and future Bally
The article even said that the Bally sale is "no 'end of an
era' thing" (well, there goes my title!), but to me it seems that
way since I have always been familiar with "Ballygames" being
made by Bally. Anyway, it remains to be seen how "separate" the
"Williams-Williams" and "Williams-Bally" lines will be. So, bye-
bye Bally-made amusement games, and "good luck" Williams on
keeping the "Bally line" alive!