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Help ID'ing antique baseball arcade game?

Butch79

Pinball Nudger
Hi, new guys here, wondering if we could get some help identifying this mysterious antique
baseball-themed arcade game. It was pictured in a 1933 edition of the Washington Post.
Like many pre-War pinball or arcade action games, like World's Series by Rockola or Major League
by Pamco, &c', no backglass -- although there is that scoreboard apparatus mounted on top.
Also seems weird: what appears to be launch control mounted on the left side of the cabinet front,
suggesting the coin slot is on the right, the opposite of almost every other coin-op ever.
Also notice: Byrd appears to be operating a lever, presumably controlling some element of play
in opposition to Combs.
That's all we got -- you can infer only what's available from the photo.
Any assistance at all in identifying the machine would be most appreciated!
 
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Butch79

Pinball Nudger
By complete coincidence, we check in on this question exactly two years after we posted it.
In the time intervening, we've done some intermittent cursory research, still hoping to find
some answer to the question posed. And perhaps we've found at least a clue, a lead, that
might generate a helpful response in here.

We stumbled across an article [ http://www.scholzroland.de/VPStuff/EXPO85.htm ] at
Roland Scholz's Visual Pinball website in which Russ Jensen describes a lecture given
by pinball historian and author Dick Bueschel at Pinball Expo '85. "The subject of
Dick's fascinating talk," reported Jensen, "was 'Pinball, A Revolutionary New Idea
'Invented' Seven Times!'" Bueschel enumerated seven landmark innovations in the
evolution of coin-op games, and had something like this to say (Jensen paraphrases):

"The 'fifth invention' was a game invented by George Miner of Los Angeles and
was patented [ the article vaguely implies this would have been in the late 1920s ].
The game was called BASEBALL. It had a glass top and was coin operated.
None have ever been found. Dick said that Bally obtained rights to this patent
and used its number on many of their early games. They also hired Mr. Miner
and he worked for Bally in the early Thirties."


Anyone here think Miner's Baseball is what's seen in that 1933 WaPo photo above?
Does anyone know if Mr Bueschel went into any more detail about this in any of the
many books he wrote about pinball and coin-ops? We'd greatly appreciate any useful
input from any one or more of this forum's many knowledgeable pinball enthusiasts...
 

Ike Savage

Froggy like robot
Staff member
Site Supporters
@Butch79,
I took a look at this poser back in March; did some googling and reverse-image searches; came up with zilch. Btw, I believe that should be Earle Combs, with an "e." He's in the hall of fame, so that should help get amateur baseball historians interested, for what that's worth.

I would post this one over at Pinside and see what that gets you, but I have a hunch your best bet will wind up being Reddit. Some good subreddits for this kind of thing might be:


Each of those should get tens of thousands of eyes on the photo / issue. There are no doubt other subreddits I'm forgetting or not aware of, either. "Antique arcade machines" and that type of thing.

I also recall taking a look at TAFA for this game: https://flyers.arcade-museum.com/?p...year=&manu=&source=&submit=Search+the+Archive

...unfortunately their arcade flyer collection only goes back to 1936. Too late for this one.


I'm definitely curious about this game, so I hope you'll keep us in the loop! Even getting a better photo from WaPo microfiche or whatnot would be nice. That may actually be available through google or WaPo, since there's now a tonne of microfiche online now.

Btw, have you played with some of the older VP remakes here? Some of them might share some similarities, like this one: 1937 World Series (Rock-ola)
 

Butch79

Pinball Nudger
Hello, Ike, thanks for your response! Funny thing, our original posts sits here for two whole years without a syllable in reply, then we bump it and it gets replied to in 45 minutes...

Anyway, please don't take anything we say here to indicate we're anything less than greatly appreciative of your suggestions or the time and effort you put into those. Just for clarity's sake, then -- yes, of course it's Earle-with-an-extra-e Combs. That was the WaPo proofreader's or typesetter's mistake back in 1933. The caption under the photo is part of the 1933 image, not our typo. In any case, who's playing the game doesn't really matter in identifying the game -- the question was actually posed to us by the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown (we've kind of become their go-to guys for research on baseball-themed games, board games, card games, pinball games, &c'). The photo seems to be the best look we'll have at the game -- unfortunately, it's a rather rough halftone exactly as printed in that edition of the Post.

Thanks also for the Reddit links, and indeed maybe we'll give one or more of those a try. But it's sort of like asking the question of random shoppers at a crowded mall, instead of inquiring of known experts in the specific relevant field. What we were really hoping was that someone here might have some of Bueschel's books on pinball and pinball history, and find in one of those books more detailed description of what Jensen reported Bueschel discussing. Was anyone on board here in attendance at Pinball Expo '85, and do they remember any specifics of Bueschel's lecture? Crucially, did Bueschel somewhere at some point write anything in any detail about Miner's landmark innovation? We have the feeling that might be the key to the answer.

We haven't yet tried playing any of the on-line pins here. We can't find the coin slot on our computer... ;)
 

Ike Savage

Froggy like robot
Staff member
Site Supporters
Hello, Ike, thanks for your response! Funny thing, our original posts sits here for two whole years without a syllable in reply, then we bump it and it gets replied to in 45 minutes...
Well, back in March, when I read your post and gave it a "like," I recall checking your acct and noticing that you hadn't logged in for ages. That's the main reason I didn't post my thoughts at the time. Just to be clear, you know.

Thanks also for the Reddit links, and indeed maybe we'll give one or more of those a try. But it's sort of like asking the question of random shoppers at a crowded mall, instead of inquiring of known experts in the specific relevant field.
You might think so, but I've been astonished by the power of the hive mind so many times now that I've come to greatly respect the power of 'random shoppers.'

Just look through r/whatisthisthing in particular and you'll see item after item going back years that gets identified with uncanny precision. Granted, only a portion of them are antiques, but still.

There's also the fact that a certain subset of that audience clearly relishes the challenge of solving these kinds of posers, and will spend a surprising amount of time on research, striving to unlock the mystery. So in the end, maybe 'random shoppers' isn't quite the best way of describing it. "99% indifferent and 1% passionate" might be better.

Anyway... really interesting that you're a prime resource for Cooperstown. What a cool association. Myself, I was fairly interested in baseball history a long time ago, but didn't carry on with it past a certain point. Oh well.

Besides the late Russ Jensen, there was at least one guy here who might have been able to help, i.e. John Patton or "tiltjlp," but I believe he also passed on some time back. Still, I can certainly imagine someone out there knowing what the machine was... someone in a sort of nexus position between antiques, arcade games and baseball.
 

Butch79

Pinball Nudger
Hi again, Ike, and thanks again for your reply! Hey, just because we hadn't logged in doesn't mean we hadn't looked in.
We were actually looking for information last week on Bally's 1956 Bingo Doubleheader, and dependably found what we
needed right here in this forum, our usual first stop for pinball information. Checked in on our 2018 post while we were
at it, and then logged in to add what we'd learned in our sporadic, intermittent research of the past two years.

We've been collecting and researching baseball games -- mostly the boardgame, card game, and tabletop pinball/bagatelle-
for-home varieties, we're just pikers as regards real arcade games -- since the 1980s, and Cooperstown called on us as
consultants for their 2008 "Home Games" exhibit of the Mark Cooper collection. We've had a mutually informative
relationship with the Hall (we throw a lot of questions their way as well) ever since.

Sadly, it looks like Bueschel, Jensen, and Patton have all passed. Who now wears the mantle of Pre-Eminent Historian
of Pinball & Coin-Ops? Great as the contributed scholarship of those three guys was, it seems like there's still much more
to be learned and documented.

Having thrown ourselves, for the time being (we're so easily distracted), back into a search for the identity of the game
half-seen in that 1933 WaPo photo, we resumed researching Miner's work, and were struck with the frisson that we were
possibly barking up the wrong tree entirely. Miner's All-American Baseball Game, precursor to RockOla's better-known
1937 World Series, is shown at https://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=6107 and https://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=6108
-- and maybe that, and not the WaPo machine, is actually what Jensen referred to Bueschel having cited in his Expo '85
presentation. But Jensen reported Bueschel calling Miner's innovation Baseball, or possibly Base Ball, as seen in the photo,
not All-American (Automatic) Baseball Game, and Bueschel evidently also made the claim (unrefuted by Jensen) that no
example of All-American (Automatic) Baseball Game had been found. Does anyone here know if that was true in 1985,
or if it's still true 35 years later? ipdb.org provides images of only period advertisements for, and articles about, that
upright-cabinet, single-player game, which is nothing like the table-format two-man game (note Byrd at that lever)
that's seen in the WaPo photo.

However! There's also this: a Miner patent applied for in 1928 and granted in 1931 for what, at least to our bifocal-
clad eyes, appears to be a different game completely from the All-American model. The link to the actual page is a
mile-and-a-half long, so just go here -- http://patft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.htm -- enter patent number
1802521 , hit the "Search" button, and on the page that opens, click on "Images." The entire description of the game's
construction and workings is there as well, accessed by hitting the right arrows. So -- does that look anything at all
like All-American Baseball Game ? To be fair, does it look like it could be the game in the WaPo photo?

Relatively sensible behaviour in our corner of the world has sufficiently suppressed transmission/infection rates
so that our libraries here were recently allowed to re-open, and we're going to try to get our hands on copies of
Bueschel's books on coin-op history to see if he provided any better details about the Miner innovation. It might
confirm our guess or prove that guess a stupid one, but even ruling it out would move the needle a little bit
toward finding an answer.

Thanks once again, Ike -- your attention to our quixotic quest is much appreciated!
 
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Ike Savage

Froggy like robot
Staff member
Site Supporters
Hmm, interesting stuff!

And pardon, I'm a bit drowsy, here. I need to re-read this tomorrow with a jolt of coffee, or something. Maybe do some editing.

Anyway, those IPDB pics seem to be significantly different in build. I mean, the mystery machine looks like it's a glass top-build, with the player peering down in to it. Those others seem to be more of a '3/4's arrangement.'

Btw, is it for sure that it's indeed a pitch-and-bat? Would the plunger that Earl's pulling control either the pitcher or the bat, or is there another possibility?
 

Butch79

Pinball Nudger
Hello again, Ike -- looking forward here to your additional thoughts. Apologies for what may well seem a rather confusing assemblage of the information we've so far located -- we're a bit out of our depth when it comes to coin-ops and ancient proto-pinball.

You do take our point, though, that the games shown on IPbD do indeed clearly have a very different layout and format than that shown in the WaPo photo or as suggested by the Miner patent. For our own benefit and that of anyone trying to follow along here, some photos for reference...

The game murkily depicted in the Washington Post pic is already up there in post #1 in this thread.

Here now is All-American Baseball Game by Amusement Machine Corp -- we already had several images of it in our photo library, but in our hurried enthusiasm we neglected to check. So this gives the answer to half of the question we posed in post #2 -- examples of the game are well known to exist. Whether they were known in 1985 to exist we can't say for sure -- perhaps they'd still been hidden away in private collections at the time of Bueschel's lecture. We have pics of two different versions -- subtle variations in the "dashboard" -- and we don't know which is from 1929 and which from 1931. This (below) is one or the other. The sturdy-looking cabinet is identical in each, but the cabinet differs radically from that more delicate, ornate cabinet shown in the advertisements for the game seen at the IPbD pages [ https://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=6107 and https://www.ipdb.org/machine.cgi?id=6108 ].


And this (below), for anyone unfamiliar with it, is the famous 1937 World's Series by RockOla. This design was of course based on Miner's design (above).


As we've both now noted, that upright cabinet design is completely different from the "tabletop" game that's apparently shown in the WaPo photo. It's more of the type exemplified by Pamco's 1934 number, Major League (below), which, by strange coincidence, showed up on US television just a couple of nights ago, in a scene from the 1935 Bette Davis vehicle, Special Agent, shown on TCM. We note that Major League is of course not the game seen in the WaPo image.


Lastly, here for convenience' sake is a glimpse (below) of the first page of Miner's 1928 patent, no. 1802521. The patent application's schematics (four pages of those) and the text descriptions of the design's mechanisms and operation strongly suggest a "tabletop" game, like Pamco's Major League and the WaPo game. However, the patent does not seem to exactly (or in some respects, even closely) match what we can sort of see of the game in the WaPo image.

Something to note: something produced under patent protection may differ in major aspects from what the patent describes -- size, materials, arrangement of parts, cosmetic features, and so on may, in actual production, display significant alterations from the thing described in patent papers, as long as the basic mechanisms and effects are consonant with the "spirit" of the invention patented -- and subsequent productions may rely on patent protection even if only some single element among many described in the patent is used in production. Indeed, the 1929 and 1931 versions of All-American Baseball Game both display patent no. 1802521. We would guess this has to do with the innovative mechanisms used to count strikes, balls, runs, and outs.

To answer your last question, Ike -- no, we have no idea how the game in the WaPo image functions. It might be a two-man pitch-and-bat (again, note Byrd apparently controlling some kind of lever), or it might be just as described in patent 1802521, a launch-the-ball-with-a-spring-plunger
and just-watch-where-the-ball-goes batless-and-flipperless mechanized bagatelle.
 
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Ike Savage

Froggy like robot
Staff member
Site Supporters
Butch, you're a genius!

oof, and yeah... I'm having some health issues here. Lemme get back when I be doing better, pls.
 

Ike Savage

Froggy like robot
Staff member
Site Supporters
@Butch79,
Sorry, mate. I notice you've been checking up on this thread lately, and I hope to help out with the research, soon.

Seems like I caught CV19 on top of existing health problems, so that's been the main struggle, recently. But there's also been extra site-work lately, so that's another time and energy drain.

This is a neat little mystery that I want to take the time to understand better, and at the very least, help get more expert eyes on it. In my mind there's 99.9% chance that someone out there has the poop on this game.
 
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