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The Official Baseball came to the Museum for restoration. It is in very original condition and is very restorable. It had been immersed in water or become very damp for a period of time. It needs to be cleaned, the cabinet repainted, and some detail work completed.
Ken Lyons created a Yahoo group called Prewar Pinball (prewarpinball) The group has been alive for over a year and consists of a small group of prewar pinball enthusiasts. They share stories, recent finds, photographs, and restoration techniques. I will be documenting my efforts with the group and here.
The following is from Richard Bueschel's Pinball 1 and describes how the Genco version of Official Baseball came about:
Your are looking at the biggest stink in the industry. No, it's not the game, for the Genco OFFICIAL BASEBALL is a terrific play as well as a fairly rare and highly desirable collectible pinball. It's the way that the game came to market that's the stinker. It all goes back to the Rock-Ola JIG SAW.
Well, it really goes back farther, back to the beginnings of Genco and the founding philosophy of the firm. When the three Gensburg brothers - Lou, Dave, and Myer - finally decided to make coin machines in Chicago at the end of 1930, egged on by the success of their brother Sam as a counter and marble game distributor, they clearly stated their business philosophy:
"Our Motto is Quality, Flash, and Price. We only make machines that protect the operator's money. Must be flashy and cheap enough so that the operator can get his cost back in a week."
That meant when any new idea hit the market place that looked like a winner, Genco hit on the idea. Not that they copied the machine. Far from it. Genco was wiling to pay royalties on an idea, but only if they had to. They much perf erred to reinvent the game their own way, and proceeded from there. As a result, Genco had a raft of original games on the market by 1934 with their eyes and ears open for the next big chance.
Rock-Ola gave it to them on a silver platter. When the Rock-Ola JIG SAW hit the market in August 1933, David Rockola had an equally clever mechanical game - actually, probably even more so - all ready to go called WORLD SERIES. The really ingenious part is a circular disk that spins when you make a hit hole, stimulating the running of bases. Rock-Ola even announced the game in full-page ads in September and October 1933, with a massive picture that showed every detail. At that point, Rock-Ola got hung up. JIG SAW was such a hit they couldn't get World Series into production and had to hold up the introduction until the following March.
Meantime, Genco staff designer Harvey Heiss created his own version in an existing cabinet (from the game called PONTIAC), got production all set up, and Genco introduced the game in April 1934 at a time when Rock-Ola still couldn't deliver the original. Rock-Ola got a cease and desist injunction the same month and everybody was mad at everybody else, from maker to distributors to operators.
The only happy people were the locations and the players, for Genco's OFFICIAL BASEBALL was a terrific hit. Completely mechanical, with all the action manipulated by springs once the ball trips a key, the game is well-engineered and reliable. Genco touted their advantage in ads that headline screamed,
"Positively Ready for immediately Large Quantity Delivery,"
while Rock-Ola fumed and the eventual lawsuit dragged on and on and on. The player gets sixteen balls to play a game, it came in 1 cent and 5 cent play, with the game ending at three outs. It takes a skillful player to get to use all sixteen balls. As for copycatting, it went on. By August 1934, a San Francisco gamemaker called the O.K. Novelty Company had their own version called HOME RUN. So what did they copy? The Genco game, of course. Have things like this happened since? Sure they have. They still do.