Fun With Pinball


The Restoration of a 1947 Bally Heavy Hitter Pitch and Bat game

Bally's 1947 Heavy Hitter is a counter top pitch and bat game with backglass animation. Measuring only 15" x 27" the game can be placed on a counter or table, or on an optional wooden or steel stand. Not to be confused with the 1959 Bally game of the same name, Heavy Hitter was manufactured from 1947 to 1949.

Bally Heavy Hitter flyerBally Heavy Hitter flyer


Game Play

Game play is very similar to full sized pitch and bat games. At the start of the game all of the displays are reset and the game immediately pitches a 5/8" steel ball from below the playfield towards the bat. The player pushes a lever on the front of the cabinet to swing the bat, trying to send the ball to the upper part of the playfield toward the holes that award base hits. The player can take more swings of the bat if the ball happens to roll down towards the bat again after the initial pitch.

The game features backglass animation very similar to the baseball diamond found on Rockola's Worlds Series from 1934. In this case the baseball diamond is behind the backglass and 5/8" steel balls run the bases as hits are made just as they would in Worlds Series.

Each time the ball lands in one of the holes in the upper part of the playfield for a hit, a steel ball representing a base runner moves from home plate at the bottom of the baseball diamond to the appropriate base. As the balls advance past 3rd base they disappear into the backbox and the illuminated runs count is incremented.

Balls that don't land in a hole eventually drain to the bottom right corner of the playfield through a pair of return lanes.  One lane costs one out and the other is a free pass.  Either way when the ball reaches the trough in the bottom right corner it is automatically kicked half way up the side of the playfield where it drops into a return chute leading to the Pitcher Unit.  There is also an Out hole on the left side of the playfield that will add an out.

The ball is automatically pitched as soon as it reaches the Pitcher Unit below the playfield so the player needs to pay attention and be ready.  The game ends once three outs have been accumulated.

After a thorough cleaning and reassembly the game plays well as shown below.  Games tend to be pretty short since the ball is always moving. There is no time during a game when the game is idle.

Heavy Hitter game play video

This Game

This example was found in a sports memorabilia store in not working condition. The playfield, backglass and internals were all in pretty good shape although the cabinet exterior had been repainted with different colors and theme. Photos on this page of the trim and cabinet do not represent the original design. The red stripe between the pitcher and bat is also not original.  Someone added a piece of red plastic tape to cover what appears to be playfield wear.

What follows are some highlights of the mechanical and electrical restoration.  The cosmetics while cleaned were not addressed or corrected in this project.

Heavy Hitter BackboxHeavy Hitter Backbox Heavy Hitter Playfield and BackboxHeavy Hitter Playfield and Backbox

The game described here was apparently made in 1947.

Date of Manufacture?Date of Manufacture?

The Playfield

The upper part of the Playfield has 10 holes and an assortment of wire guides to direct the ball into the holes. Nine of the holes are for hits and one is for an out.  Below the bat are lanes to guide the ball to lower end of the return lane along the right side.  When the ball lands at the bottom of the return lane it is immediately fired up the lane to the other end where it is deflected through a hole in the playfield.

Heavy Hitter Upper PlayfieldHeavy Hitter Upper Playfield PlayfieldPlayfield Heavy Hitter Return LanesHeavy Hitter Return Lanes Heavy Hitter playfield detailHeavy Hitter playfield detail

The largest feature below the playfield is the steel ball pan that directs the ball back to the Pitcher Unit after it has fallen through one of the playfield holes.

Under the playfieldUnder the playfield

When a ball rolls off the ball pan and into the Pitcher Unit it closes a switch which fires the Pitcher Unit solenoid and sends the ball back to the batter. When the solenoid activates the spring loaded pitching arm swings to the left in the photo below, propelling the ball from below the playfield to the playfield surface where it exits below a thin spring metal cover or flap.

Pitching unitPitching unit

When the player pushes down on the batting lever on the front of the cabinet the large solenoid shown below activates and drives the bat.  This is essentially a flipper mechanism complete with an End of Stroke (EOS) switch.

Batting UnitBatting Unit

With the steel ball pan removed you can see how the pressed wood shutter mechanism works. When the ball lands in one of the playfield holes the shutter holds it there while the game registers the hit or out.  Once that's done a large solenoid fires which slides the shutter forward (up in the photos below) and allows the ball to drop through the playfield and back onto the ball pan. This is the same basic shutter mechanism used on bingo games and pinball machines with trap holes.

Shutter mechanismShutter mechanism Shutter mechanismShutter mechanism Shutter solenoid and Batting UnitShutter solenoid and Batting Unit

If the ball in play doesn't land in a hole at the top of the playfield but instead finds its way to the bottom right corner of the playfield, the ball return kicker fires to shoot the ball up the right side and return it to the ball pan and Pitcher Unit. Note how the kicker has worn to the shape of the ball.

Ball return kickerBall return kicker Ball return kickerBall return kicker

Inside the Cabinet

Inside the cabinet is a board that bolts to the bottom and side of the cabinet. After disconnecting the jones plugs for the power switch at the back and the batter's switch at the front the entire board can be removed.

Cabinet bottomCabinet bottom

In the back corner of the cabinet is the Base Stepper. When the ball lands in one of the hit holes on the playfield the the motor starts turning and the Base Stepper steps through up to four positions looking for the hit that corresponds to the hole the ball landed in (single, double, triple or home run). Once the appropriate hit is identified the shutter below the hole slides forward to allow the ball to fall through the hole and roll back to the Pitcher unit.

With only four steps to take this stepper uses only a small section of a contact disc which would usually be a full circle in newer games.

Base stepperBase stepper

Just inside the coin door are two rheostats (or high power variable resistors) to adjust the strength of the Pitcher Unit and the Batter Coil.


RheostatsRheostats RheostatsRheostats

On the right side in front of the transformer is a bank of three relays. If you look carefully you'll see that one relay has a small auxiliary coil next to the main relay coil.  The larger coil of the two is the Anti-Cheat relay which is a continuous duty relay, meaning that is is normally on or active. The smaller coil is the Tilt coil that fires when the Tilt bob touches its ring. The plunger in the Tilt coil pushes up on a stiff blade sticking through the Anti-Cheat relay armature rack and mechanically deactivates the Anti-Cheat relay by pushing the armature up and away from the coil.

Relay bankRelay bank Relay bankRelay bank

On the front of the cabinet is the lever which closes a switch inside the cabinet that activates the playfield bat. The inside view shows a mechanical stop that limits the upward travel of the lever. Not shown is a matching lower stop that limits the downward travel; it's hidden behind the switch.

Bat leverBat lever Bat lever switchBat lever switch

The Backbox

Most of the fun happens in the backbox. Behind the backglass is a removable insert with the lights and mechanisms that animate the game.

Inside cabinet and backboxInside cabinet and backbox Cabinet with empty backboxCabinet with empty backbox Empty backbox from behindEmpty backbox from behind

Backbox with insertBackbox with insert Backbox InsertBackbox Insert

Place five balls herePlace five balls here Backbox InsertBackbox Insert

The most interesting device in the game is the base running assembly which is driven by a motor. The disc is a common phenolic material commonly used in stepper units that has been painted green. It mounts to the motor shaft and one of the motor cams. A pair of cams are mounted to the motor shaft to operate switches as the motor turns.  Notice the small lighter colored discs on either side of the cams.  Those are clutches that allow the cams to slip on the motor shaft.  They may be necessary to allow the green base runner disc to stop abruptly while the motor shaft spins down. Clutches were commonly used in bingo games too.

Phenolic disc and motor shaft (after cleaning)Phenolic disc and motor shaft (after cleaning) Motor shaft and cams (before cleaning)Motor shaft and cams (before cleaning) Motor cams and clutchesMotor cams and clutches

The motor and its gear box were a greasy mess.  Note the felt pads on either side of the rotor in the third photo where oil should be added to lubricate the rotor shaft.

Motor gear boxMotor gear box Motor gear boxMotor gear box MotorMotor

Fortunately the motor and gearbox came apart easily so the gears and other components could be cleaned individually and reassembled. The gearbox was built much like a simple clock with two plates holding the gears in place.

Dirty motor gearboxDirty motor gearbox Dirty motor gearsDirty motor gears Clean gears, dirty frameClean gears, dirty frame

Clean gearsClean gears Clean reassembled motorClean reassembled motor Cleaned and reassembledCleaned and reassembled

Whenever the player gets a hit on the playfield, the motor turns the green disc enough to move the ball to the appropriate base.  While the disc is turning the next ball on deck in the chute has to be kept from rolling into the rotating disc and getting carried away.  For example if the player gets a double and the disc needs to rotate enough to carry a ball from home plate to 2nd base, a second ball can't be allowed to roll from the chute into the next gap in the disc or it would end up on 1st base. This solenoid fires whenever the motor runs to prevent extra balls from running the bases.  When it fires the brass arm lifts into the chute to block any balls from rolling out until the motor stops. Only then can the next ball roll into the home plate position.

Ball gate coilBall gate coil

In the upper left corner of the backbox is the Outs counter stepper unit. Since it only has to step up three times and there are just two wipers the designers simplified the unit to use less than a quarter of a wiper board which is usually a full circle.

Outs counter step unit (before cleaning)Outs counter step unit (before cleaning)

The Cabinet

Sadly the cabinet and optional wooden stand have been painted.  Attempts to remove the added paint while leaving the original lacquer below were unsuccessful so for now the paint remains.  A cabinet restoration may come later.

Heavy Hitter wooden standHeavy Hitter wooden stand Heavy Hitter wooden stand and cabinet bottomHeavy Hitter wooden stand and cabinet bottom 1947 Bally Heavy Hitter1947 Bally Heavy Hitter