He's A Pinball Wizard

Lindsey PilcherOf the Suburban Journals
News Democrat Journal

To Herb Enzmann of Hillsboro pinball machines have personality.They talk to him in computerized voices, taunting him with the phrases they are programmed to repeat.He has a hospital for the sick ones, where he can repair their scoreboards or slingshot mechanisms.Enzmann's 18 pinball machines have birth dates, ranging from the early '70s to his youngest, made in 1994.
He calls the first pinball machine he ever owned "a basket case," indicating the machine had some severe emotional problems.The pinball machines reside in Enzmann's basement, where he repairs the sick ones after work, sometimes for hours."My wife says, ‘How can you stay down there?'" Enzmann said. "Hours go by. It's unbelievable."Enzmann started collecting the machines three years ago, and although his wife doesn't quite get his fascination, she doesn't disapprove."My wife told me, ‘You know what, you could do a lot worse,'" Enzmann said of his hobby. "When I hear her foot slam on the floor, I know it's dinnertime."Enzmann did get in a little trouble with his wife when he bought a pinball machine with a female weightlifter theme.‘It's supposed to be about weightlifting, but the sounds it makes….." Enzmann said, shaking his head. "The guy I got that from, his wife made him get rid of it. He brought his friends over to play that sleazy machine. It doesn't sound like weightlifting."Enzmann prefers the family-oriented machines that he can play with his grandson, Jordan. The Slugfest machine is the most played of the bunch. While Enzmann pitches, Jordan uses the flippers to bat, and he can also steal bases. An umpire heckles the batter with phrases like "You couldn't hit water if you fell off a boat." The crowd cheers, and vendors in the background sell programs and ice cream."It's exactly like a ball game if you listen to the sound effects," Enzmann said. "It's cool. How could you not like it?"Jordan's favorite pinball game is "Nightmare on Elm Street." At only 7 years old, he's never seen the horror flick, but the game has some great effects.What is his favorite one?"Whenever it shoots balls out of (Freddy's) mouth," Jordan said.Enzmann's favorites are the older ones, the "electro-mechanical ones," with Western themes. He also has a "Nip It" pinball machine similar to the one characters played on "Happy Days." The "Charlie's Angels" machine doesn't work, and it will likely go the way of the weightlifter machine. Enzmann plans to get rid of both to make room for more machines."It's getting to the point where I have to get tired of one and get rid of it to get another," Enzmann said.His basement, which looks like a game room with a couch and several chairs, is full of hidden closets, and behind every door there's a sick machine that needs medical attention.Enzmann said he picks up most of his machines by word of mouth. Somebody's friend's cousin will have an old pinball machine and tell Herb about it. He's also been to Pennsylvania, Ohio and Chicago to pick up games. His blue pick-up truck has a sticker advertising that he's looking for more pinball machines.Enzmann pays anywhere from $40 to $200, and they all come to him sick."It comes completely apart," Enzmann said. "I'll go through every switch, every relay. It's fascinating."Enzmann's pinball machine collection makes his house a popular place for family get-togethers. When his friends are over, they always end up downstairs with the pinball machines.Despite his thorough knowledge of all things pinball, Enzmann can be beat. He said he even has trouble beating his grandson in a game.And when he goes to a restaurant, he doesn't even bother with the pinball machines."I think, I'd rather be playing the ones I have at home," Enzmann said.

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