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Obituary: Pinball pioneer Steve Kordek

Obituary: Pinball pioneer Steve Kordek

February 21, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Steve Kordek, who revolutionized the design of pinball tables and helped transform the coin-op games into an American pastime, passed away on Sunday. He was 100 years old.

Kordek created the first pinball game that featured two flippers at the bottom of the playfield with Triple Action in 1947, according to Vending Times -- many others copied the design, and it's become the standard for pinball tables to this day.

"I just figured two flippers on a game was enough," said Kordek, who modified the idea from another table that had six flippers. "I was taught to be very conservative to hold down costs. There was no way I would put six flippers on a game when I could get away with two."

He designed the game at Genco Manufacturing, where he got his start after taking shelter from the rain at the company's building. He ended up taking a job there on Genco's manufacturing line, and got his start crafting tables while head designer Harvey Heiss was sick.

Kordek eventually went on to design more than a hundred tables at Genco and other pinball manufacturers like Williams and Bally. He also introduced more pinball staples like drop targets with Vagabond in 1962, and multi-ball play with Beat the Clock in 1963.

"I had more fun in this business than anyone could believe," Kordek told the Chicago Tribune in a 2009 interview. Even in his later years, he continued to attend trade expos, where many were eager to meet with and talk to the legendary pinball designer.

Kordek's family will hold a viewing at Chicago's Colonial Funeral Home on Wednesday from 3PM to 9PM. St. Juliana Church will hold a funeral mass the following day at 10AM. A tribute book collecting memories of Kordek and his contributions is available here [PDF].

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