Yankee Baseball Rebuild October 3 2015 – February 27 2016
A two player’s 1969 Yankee Baseball pitch and bat game. The flier says, Featuring ‘Realistic base running in lights on back glass and on playfield’, ‘scoring like baseball with three outs per game', '7 hit and run targets and two ramps to score bleacher home runs’. It was made by the Chicago Coin Machine division of Chicago Dynamic Industries. As a kid I remember playing it, and many other old guys have remarked they played it as well, so it was a popular game in its day.
This particular machine must have been operated in pool halls or bowling alleys for years, broke down and repaired then broke again, repaired, broke, taken apart and left in a damp place for years, forgotten and ignored.
It was a junk barn auction in Lakefield Ontario where, along with a half dozen other old working pinballs bowlers and jukeboxes were for sale when I first saw the game. This game was pushed off to the side away from the rest. The filthy back box was separate from the machine, on the floor with the door partially open and all the score reels removed from their holders. To remove the back box the score reels have to be dismantled to access the mounting bolts and was probably the reason for its disassembled condition. The rotting main body was nearby, standing on its end with some legs tied to it. A pinside friend originally bid and bought it for 45 bucks at the auction, and when I asked if he wanted to part with it he wanted to just give it to me but I insisted he sell it. He sold it to me with a profit of a price of a coffee.
I acquired it only because no one else wanted it. I had no idea if it would even turn on let alone play.
Evidence of more than one mechanical repair (hack) was found inside the game boxes and both the playfield and main box exteriors painted graphics had been badly touched up. The coin box was extremely rusted and both ends of the main box swollen and broken, signs of long time moisture exposure. The insides were intact with only spider webs, mouse droppings, rust and light dirt to contaminate the inner workings. The Back glass was not broken but the paint had sustained damage, the cracking and peeling that evidence exposure to heat and cold and moisture.
Once I got it home I was pretty excited, after all it was only 50 bucks what did I have to lose? At that price a few hundred dollars of investment was a good risk. I assessed the physical condition of the machine and took a bunch of pictures. My wife said it stunk and I had better take care of that issue right away. I couldn’t find any cut wires or missing mechanical equipment. I decided to take a chance and rebuild it knowing that chances were it would never work properly. I understood right away this would be an extreme makeover and decided to remake it to look like an older wood rail style pinball from the 40’s or 50’s but keep the flavor of the original game intact. As the game evolved my new design cues flowed out from that concept. (At the time the Blue Jays were on a playoff run so there was some thought of re-branding it as a Blue Jay instead of Yankee game but that was dropped as the complexity of the build increased). Other big ideas were floated as well, wooden baseball bats cut to fit for legs, adding sound bites like the new games. The sound idea may actually work using a raspberry pie. I've aquired all the hardware so hopefully this winter I'll be able to move to the pratical side of the idea. A few old Blue Jay baseball cards and bobble heads mounted in the cabinet has satisfied my re-branding thoughts.
These machines all contain many large wire connectors that allow for easy assembly and disassembly of the various internal components. I unplugged everything from the transformer, attached a new power cord to the machine and plugged it in to check the transformer for voltage. The transformer and individual components tested successfully so at that point I moved forward and ordered a schematic from a pinball store I found on line located in Vancouver and began the disassembly. At this time if I wasn’t hands on the machine I was researching online for any mention of the game.
The tools I used over the course of the build were many and varied. For the woodworking, Saws, routers, sanders. Electrical tools included meters, soldering guns, wire cutters. For the cleaning of parts, Q-tips and alcohol, rust remover, magic eraser and Isopropanol alcohol. Novus #1 and #2 plastic cleaners and polish and Super lube for all lubrication of moving parts. On top of these were every screwdriver, wrench, cutting tool, glue, paint, tape, measuring devices seemed to fill my work bench on a daily basis as the project continued.
The back box contains two large panels where the all the motors, relays, steppers, lights and wire harnesses are attached. These panels are connected by an thick umbilical cord of many wires which did not come apart. One panel is deep inside the box and the other was the 15/16" thick press wood door. They had to be removed from the back box. Together they were very awkward and heavy and I misjudged the weight of the panels during their removal. Beliving I could manage the extraction myself, I had them half out and got stuck, couldn’t put them back or get them out without help. Fortunately my wife was home and together we got the panels out safely.
I had built a custom rolling stand to secure the panels beside each other for easy access and storage while I re-built the back box. With the panels secured, I was able to completely de-solder and remove to bench clean all the mechanical parts, motors, steppers, relays, switches, connectors, bulbs holders. Lots of pictures, drawings of wiring and connection identification were done before any element was removed.
All the moving parts were disassembled, inspected for damage and replaced if needed, stripped, cleaned, lubed and re-assembled and installed with the mounting panel cleaned and painted as the parts were removed and reattached. Burned coils were sourced and replaced along with all bulbs and damaged holders replaced. Wires tugged, Switch stacks tightened, cleaned and adjusted. All exposed metal (including screws) was rusted so it was either buffed or bathed in rust remover.
The back box was rotted and was replaced with lighter and stronger ¾ inch new oak covered plywood using the old box as a template for measurements. The front and back of the main body of the machine were replaced as well, bottom was re-enforced and the sides of the main box were covered in oak veneer and trimmed in oak as well. The interiors were all cleaned and painted with white melamine paint. The graphics on the outside of the game are reproductions of the originals. Created with White and dark brown stains applied slowly and very carefully with a Q-tip which kept the stain from spreading outside the design. I had made full size stencils of the originals to transfer the designs using a six mil clear plastic sheet donated by a friend. The final coating of all the exterior wood was an amber shellac. This really gives the game the old look I envisioned at the beginning of this project.
The original wood trim that held and framed the back glass in place was damaged and had to be replaced as well. Many years ago my family had rough cut and stored many planks of oversized black walnut. They were retrieved and once again using the originals as templates the trim and game control panel boards were created. The control panel was created from a rough cut black walnut board, sanded, cut, routed, and drilled to the same dimensions of the original laminated panel. The panel was stained and urethane and wired up to hold the Pitching and Batting controls.
The back glass had been sealed to stop the loss of more paint by spraying the back of the glass with triple thick urethane. It was damaged enough in some sections it needed to be colour matched at home depot and matched paint samples were purchased. The damaged sections were scraped and repainted, this worked well. I also sourced out new protective edging to protect the glass. Doesn't sound like much but it makes a huge visual difference and protected the glass as well.
To repair playing surface of pins I have made and bolted to my workbench a pair of rotating clamps that hold the ends of the play surface high enough to clear the work bench to allow the playfield to rotate 360 degrees. The gives me access to both the top and bottom easily and without damaging the exposed mechanical elements mount under the playsurface. The play surface itself was a filthy mess with dirt and had many really bad attempts at touch ups, but the remaining paint and player graphics cleaned extremely well using urethane foam and isopropanol alcohol and then a final cleaning and polish with Novus #2 and now the surface looks like new. After years of game play parts of the play surface are worn down to the bare wood. That was left as natural wood and once stained and sealed were a positive feature giving an old look to the playsurface. I removed, filled (with automotive clear coat) sanded and reset all the plastic light inserts. The foul ball areas of the playfield were painted a hideous green that had been damaged; I decided to sand all the paint off and exposed a very nice wood grain. This I stained and urethaned. The playfield was then rotated to expose the undersurface and performed the same rebuild as I did in the back box panels. Three or four coils were replaced, old repairs were fixed and all contacts cleaned and adjusted. The metal ball trough was removed and de-rusted and the base wood was cleaned and painted with melamine paint.
The original playfield glass was a piece of really bad 3/16 plastic. It had to be replaced. During the build of this machine I had another project ongoing that needed completing this winter. My son has a Williams’s 1974 Big Ben pinball that I needed to get out the door to make room for this game. The playfield needed cleaning and inserts reset. The playfield glass was fairly scratched so I decided to replace it. I ordered the tempered glass for the Big Ben and messed up the thickness measurement. When I got it two months later, it was 10mm not 6mm as required. Tempered glass is expensive and can’t be recut so I was not amused, Luckily this new glass was the right width for the Yankee but longer than the original glass, but hmmm….if the control panel is moved onto the front of the box then the glass is the right length… so at this moment I stepped out of the easy zone and recreated a whole new top (and look) for the game. The glass normally slides in along two plastic u shaped pieces, now the originals are too small, find and replace, the metal trim now too short, find and replace. After many hours of trial and error with the new design the new glass fits and with its extra thickness, it looks deeper which is awesome. Another advantage to the thicker glass in that during gameplay the ball sometimes actually bounces up and strikes the glass with a good whack! With the control panel now moved to the verticle front of the game, it had to be made removable to allow for the removal of the playfield glass to open the machine. The original game had a great big coin door that was the entry point and was totally rusted. That had to be replaced. The solution was to replace the coin box with an old post box combination door and attach the control panel with interior latches that could be reached by reaching in through the new door. More carpentry work required.
Today the game starts and plays almost flawlessly and I am very happy with the overall visual result. When friends come over it is the game they enjoy the most. I lost track a while ago of the amount of hours I spent, and the money I spent, but I enjoyed every minute and all the challenges along the way. I would also like to thank bug at 'spooky pinball podcast, Nick at foramusmentonly bingopodcast and the crazy dudes at the canadianpodcast as they were along for the ride during the hundreds of hours of workshop time. Learned a ton!