Steven Francis (“Steve”) Kordek (1911-2012) was a legendary American pinball designer, renowned for popularizing the now-standard two flippers at the bottom of a pinball playing field.
Kordek grew up in Chicago, the eldest of 10 children to Polish immigrant parents. During the 1930s, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked for the U.S. Forest Service. He returned to Chicago in 1937 and, according to a popular story Kordek told, was hired by Genco Pinball, Co. after stepping inside their storefront to escape a downpour. He studied at the Coyne Electrical School at night and worked his way up through the engineering department at Genco. Kordek revolutionized the game of pinball after improving upon another firm’s idea to introduce electromechanical flippers to the bottom of a playfield, giving the player more control and turning a former gambling activity into a skill game. In 1948, Kordek’s pinball game Triple Action took the industry by storm, and soon after, two flippers became standard.
In the 1950s, Kordek joined Bally Manufacturing Co., and later, Williams Manufacturing Co. Through his career at Williams, Kordek designed upwards of 20 games per year, and eventually became chief designer. Kordek established other now-key features of pinball games, including drop targets and multi-ball game play. He retired in 1999 following the closure of Williams’ pinball division. Kordek passed away in 2012 at the age of 100.