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Pinball Map T-Shirts – Look Cool and Support Pinball

August 25, 2014

YOU could looks this handsome if only you had this shirt!

In 2010 I started the Bay Area Pinball Map.  It began after a BAPA league night when a discussion among players started that it was hard for people, especially casual players, to find places to play.  And there were so few places.  The next day was slow at work and I’d dabbled with custom Google Maps a bit, so I figured, eh, why not?

I knew of about 20 locations and put them on the map.  I asked other players through the league grapevine to send me locations.  I searched Yelp for pinball and found around 20 more, and called the businesses to confirm.  The awkward conversations went something like: “I know this is weird, but I’m compiling a pinball map and your Yelp reviews say you have one…”  I found some odd surprises, such as a couple Auto Body shops (usually with car-themed games, of course), and a children’s dentist with a Pirates of the Caribbean in his waiting room.  A bead shop in San Francisco had five games, including some 1940s pre-flipper games.  The owner explained that beyond it being his personal hobby, most of his customers were female and he figured it would give their spouses something to do.

Local top-flight players Andrei Massenkoff and Neil Shatz added another several dozen locations in SF and the East Bay.

Then a guy named Eric in SF contacted me.  He started flooding me with locations.  He and his wife Louise had been going around the city and sticking their heads in every storefront on the off-chance there might be a pinball game.  In addition to the usual bars and pizza places, I got tons of locations of dive, leather and lesbian bars.  Eric and Louise were brave indeed!

While all this was going on, Josh Lehan had a ‘parked’ domain called ‘’, and he very generously pointed it at the map (still does today).  Now instead of a crazy long URL to access the map, people had a simple way to find pinball machines.

All in all, I was surprised, but in a very good way.  It was endeavor I thought would confirm my (negative) suspicion that pinball was a dying thing.  I thought the map would top out at around 40 or 50 locations.  Remember, in 2010, many were sounding the death-knell of pinball, that STERN, the last pinball manufacture, would soon go out of business.  But within two months we were over 150 locations and 300 games.  Pinball was not dead, we just needed to know where to look.

Fast forward several months, I got a message from Ryan Gratzer of Portland.  Pinball was/is still thriving in Portland and he and some other super-smart programmer types made a pinball map web site and mobile apps for the iPhone and Droid.  The Portland Pinball App made my Google Map look like small potatoes.  They said they were thinking of expanding it to other cities.  They asked if I was interested.

Eventually, through the Portland folks’ hard work, the Bay Area Pinball Map joined the Portland map system.  We inherited their awesome iPhone and Android apps and it created a ton of visibility.  Now they have dozes of cities on their map.  Check them out here.  It’s incalculable what their map has done for location, operator revenues and the growth of pinball these last few years.

The updates and new locations continued to flood in as a result.  A couple years ago I asked Eric W to take over the map because I was running tournaments and feeling a bit overwhelmed.  He did, and has been doing an amazing job ever since.  And now he’s started running his own tournaments in SF.

The pinball map was built for, by and of the people.  Now it’s time for you to give a little back for all the use you got out of it, and look cool besides.

Go here any buy one:




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