With all the horrible things going on in this turbulent world we live in. It is good to be reminded that there are super frikkin' awesome people out there. This is such a story.
I captained a pinball league team last year and had a member who had his first competitive pinball experience with my team. He was married to one of the people I used to work with. His name is Alex. Now Alex isn't the best pinball player, but he loved the game and always showed up early and for practice sessions with the team. He knew that he wasn't a good chance to win whenever he played, but he always had fun and when he did win his smile was beamin'! Over time he came to become more comfortable with a couple of pinball titles and would gravitate towards them whenever it was his turn to choose a game to play. Stern Indiana Jones and Bally World Cup Soccer '94, the second game really got his interest. understand that Alex came to America from Germany, so he could relate to soccer as a sport. It was his favorite game to play. So whenever we went to our home team location or played at another team's spot, these were the games he looked for and he would step up and practice the copy of the title whenever it was at the court of pin-battle.
It has been a while since team league has been held, but he asks me about it when we meet. I am still waiting for him to show up at a monthly or another pinball league. Now his wife Deanna is super awesome. The first time I met Alex was at their wedding (that's another story...) and he is a tall, rather shy and very intelligent. His wife is short, LOUD and laughs all the time. A very yin/yang couple that work great together. Deanna and Alex were planning to move into a new house and she wanted to surprise him with a hoursewarming present. She asked me which game he would like the most and WCS came to the forefront within a moment. I told her I'd help her make this happen. Now let's take a step back for a moment and know that when Alex played, he usually played with another team member named JJ Babich. You may have heard the name before, he is one of the people who runs The Game Exchange here in Denver. JJ and Alex were usually paired up in teams when a 4 player game was held. They both knew that they were not the best players and were happy to be the "sacrificial lambs" (JJ's words, not mine) to be tossed to the highest ranked players on the other teams to give the team a better chance to win overall. So now JJ is in on the gig and we start looking for a WCS '94. It took us about a month to find one. Deanna bought the game and JJ picked it up and put it in my loving room for getting it into great playing shape.
Now is the time when you find out what you really have. What we had is a game that was in good shape, but was sold at the best time possible for the seller to not have to put any more $$ into it anymore. The game worked, but the GI was out on one side, the DMD was gassing out, and little things like broken wires and dirt were everywhere to be found. This will not do. So, I put together a shopping list and called in some friends. Tom Grobe took care of the GI and Ryan Wanger form Comet Pinball helped with the lighting (the work on this game will not be forgotten). Then we ordered Cliffy's protectors, new legs, a new dmd, rubber kit (with some special Cliffy post protectors, they are bright in color and very cool). Taking the game apart took over my living room and when I get the game stripped, the first thing I notices was how frikkin dirty it was. So all the troughs and pathways the ball took over and under the PF were disassembled and scrubbed clean. You know how WCS'94's never have a white soccer ball, well, this one does now. When the Cliffy protectors arrived, they were placed on the PF and then the reassembling started. Lots of Novus 2 and meangreen on q-tips were sacrificed for this noble cause. Mylar on the soccer ball inserts, the kickout from Final Draw and around the goal were placed on the PF as well. This thing is SMOOOOOOOOOOTH now. The lighting kit was next. and it made a huge difference. Color coding on the translite really made the game's colorful scheme pop. It lookes GREAT! Cleaning and reassembling the game came quickly and rebuilding the flippers made the smooth ramps really fly.
Now for the real test. With Deanna's permission, I took the game to Dory Hill for a weekend of competitive play. Issues started to pop up. The game would double flipper game reset (BR2 anyone?) to happen. Fortunately, Trent Augenstein suggested that I test the outlet. The cabin I was staying in only had 108 volts to the games. Getting a 25 fot. extension cord, we got 120 to the games and they played as they should. This game still had issues with some broken traces, cold solder joints and some wires that came undone on the trip to 9230' above sea level. So, the fix-it-kit stayed open all weekend and the little things that add up, were either addressed or noted. The game was one of the toughest pin-golf holes of the event. I like it! Getting the game back home there were only a few more items that needed to be addressed. Tom Grobe came back and got them correct with the quickness. This game now looked great, was playe tested and was ready for delivery.The last minute addition was the strip of SMD lighting just above the outhole made a huge difference with visibility by the flippers, I'm going to put them in on my games now in the future.
Deanna's birthday was that upcoming Sunday. I knew I would have to miss the Helenament on Sunday for this, but it was worth it. The final stages of the plan were set in motion. Deanna's dad and brother were in town for her birthday and they ran the interference to keep Alex out of the house when I was there setting it up. JJ stopped on by with his wife and another Flipper Baby team member, Bill Manke (Boxwood Pinball) came on in with his beautiful 9 month old daughter Hazel. The game was setup in the living room and Alex would see it as soon as he walked in the door. I gave Deanna the keys and she refused to play a game on it until Alex did. There was a mention of this on The Little Kings Pinball Podcast, but the names of the people involved were never mentioned. Besides, Alex doesn't listen to pinball podcasts, only real pinball nerds do! There was a moment of "oh shit!" when Deanna's brother handed Alex the phone to navigate and he asked "why is there a pinball game on your messanger?" D'oh! Fortunately, Alex was none the wiser until the magic moment when he stepped into the front door, looked at the game in the corner and stopped in his tracks.
You know that feeling when you did a friend a solid and you get to see the payoff? Yeah...
So my friend Deanna bought her husband a pinball game and gave it to him ON HER OWN BIRTHDAY. That's how fuckin' awesome she is. She handed him the keys, gave him the first game on the table (ok, he was player 1 in a 4 player game) and left him stunned and grinning like a 3 year old who has just had his first taste of cotton candy. It was a beautiful moment and I got to help make it happen and be a part of it. I had to give her a Hi-5 for that (first pic!). After a few more games, we all went out with Deanna for HER birthday dinner and had a great time. After that, we went out for ice cream.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it." — FERRIS BUELLER