Bally Hi-Deal, 1975

Bally Hi Deal, 1975

A first pinball machine is a special thing, to be sure. It’s even more so when it comes with a story.

In November of 2016, my cousin Brendan reached out to me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. He was working at the time in a youth home, to which someone had donated a somewhat worse-for-wear Bally Hi-Deal. It lived in the common area of the home for a time, but eventually developed some sort of issue, as EM pinball machines all eventually do. One of the residents attempted to fix it, and got as far as disassembling it into a number of component pieces before parting ways with the project for reasons that have become lost to history.  Being that my cousin Brendan was a professional counselor, and not a “Pin Guy”, we arrived at a reasonable “Get-it-out-of-here” price, and I quickly jumped in the van. When I came to get it, the backbox and the playfield had been removed, as had the backglass and of course the playfield glass.  Thankfully, there was no “box of parts”, so it seemed that the disassembly had not yet progressed beyond the “macro” level before it stopped. My friend and partner in all things arcade, Jacob, helped me load it in and away we went.

This was my first pin, and knowing the limits of my ability, as well  as the limits of my time and available space, I elected to put the project in the capable hands of Curt Gardner at Portland Pinball Repair. I told him “No hurry”, and a couple of months later, he called me with some great news: the game was ready!

It turns out that this particular game had some interesting tales to tell. The price card indicated that it had once collected coins at Ground Kontrol, which is one of Portland’s most well-known and popular arcades, and one of the first “barcades” to open for business anywhere in the country. I shared this discovery on Portland’s arcade collector email list, and Anthony Dandrea, one of the owners and operators of Ground Kontrol remembered the game arriving, and also remembered selling it when its time on the floor had ended. Between the two of us, we were able to account for nearly all of the moves it had made since 2004.

It’s got some pretty significant wear on the cabinet, and the playfield is worn through to the wood in spots, but it plays nice and smooth, and everything works.

Playfield Detail

Maile tearing up the High-Deal

The High-Deal coming home. The Van isn’t tall enough to haul a pin with the head attached and upright, which is probably a good thing anyway.

High-Deal playfield

If you’re curious about the details of this game, here is the IPDB link:

Since EMs don’t generally have a free play setting, and I had no intention of ever routing this game, I did the “Free pay mod”, which essentially involves connecting the credit and start switches, so that the start switch adds a credit at the same time it starts the game.

I know this will cause some people to gasp and gag, but in the interest of lowering the heat emitted by the game (some of the plastics are warped), I replaced the incandescent lights with non-ghosting warm white LEDs. I don’t mind the look at all, and I feel a lot better about the longevity of the game with the cooler, lower power bulbs installed. If I decide to become a purist about such things later, it’s a simple matter to change the bulbs back.

Other than regular cleaning and waxing, that’s about all I’ve done to the high deal since it came to the Zencade. I really enjoy the more modern pins, and I doubt I will soon become an EM “specialist”, but I do enjoy having this one around. Sometimes it’s nice to just keep things simple and enjoy a slow roll. I think I’ll hang onto it for a while.

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