Pinball wizardSteve Kordek

After starting out as a solderer at a game company in Chicago, Kordek was asked to fill in and design a new game when the company’s designer was out sick. The game was pinball, and at the time pinball games typically had six flippers to keep the ball in play. “I was taught to be very conservative to hold down costs,” he remembered years later. “There was no way I was going to put six flippers on a game when I could get away with two.” And he put them at the bottom, at the “drain”. That was so different, “What Steve did was revolutionize the game of pinball,” said Larry DeMar, president of Leading Edge Design in Northbrook, Ill. “It now became a defensive battle.”

The game, “Triple Action,” introduced in 1948, was a huge hit, and Kordek became a top designer. He invented the “drop target” (for “Vagabond” in 1962), and multi-ball play (for “Beat the Clock” in 1963). “The secret to designing a good game is to attract the player,” Kordek said. “What attracts a player, first, is the pictures on the back glass of the game. Second, if what he sees on the play field is different, that’s a success. And when the features are so exciting that he wants to put more money in it, you’ve got him.” After retiring in 1999, Kordek stayed on at the company he had worked for as a volunteer to archive its records, to ensure the history of pinball games stayed intact. He died in a hospice February 19, of complications from a fall. He was 100.

From This is True for 26 February 2012