Written by PMcGee, published January 23rd, 2013. 10 comment(s).
When we first started collecting pinball machines a few years ago, we pored over every article or website we could find, trying to determine which electro-mechanical machines we should make an effort to find. Fireball kept rising to the top of our lists, but sinking rapidly due to the high price as compared to other pinball machines of the era. One Friday evening, as luck would have it, I got an email alert that a Fireball had been posted locally on Craigslist. The price was higher than we wanted to pay, but a better price than eBay and no shipping was involved, so we bit. We emailed and in a couple hours were heading south of town to pick it up. This was our first multiball EM, and our first game with zipper flippers. We did not know that these pinball features would become habit forming.
Per IPDB, Bally manufactured 21 different electro-mechanical games with zipper flippers, and 10 EM games with multiball. Bazaar was the first Bally game with zipper flippers, followed by Capersville, both in 1966. Nip It was the last Bally EM with zipper flippers, right after production of Fireball. Of those manufactured with zipper flippers, we own Fireball (1972), Four Million BC (1971) and Rocket III (1967). Fireball and Four Million BC also have multiball. Circus (1957) and Star-Jet (1963) are other Ballys in our collection with multiball. Circus is the same playfield layout as Balls-A-Poppin (1956) which was the first flipper pinball with multiball.
Bally Xenon came out in 1980 and was the first Bally solid state pinball machine with multiball and voice. Not an EM, but in our collection.
As our collection of Bally EMs grew, we noticed progressions from one machine to the next. Rocket III has a spinning disc on the playfield, although it has bumpers in the middle. Is this where the idea for Fireball's spinning disc originated? Multiball on Fireball works similarly to multiball on Star-Jet, utilizing the kickout holes. Four Million BC had the outlane kicker first, and Fireball followed. Capersville (1966) has features repeated on several of the later machines - the captive ball alley was used on Four Million BC, zipper flippers, and kickout holes were on several machines as noted above. IPDB states that Capersville was the first to feature 3 ball multiball play, but it seems to me that distinction would go to Star-Jet.
We anticipate expanding on our collection of Bally EM's. Our current lineup includes 1947 Rocket, 1957 Circus, Star-Jet, Rocket III, On Beam, Four Million BC, Fireball, 1973 Circus, Wizard and Capt Fantastic. We have our eyes on the Capersville from Houston Arcade Expo, and maybe a King Tut. And I have my eye out for Op-Pop-Pop too. Just have to find room!
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