June 7, 2005

TCFPA President Todd "PinTed" Andersen reports from SS Billiards in Hopkins, Minnesota.


The May Day tournaments were held at SS Billiards from Thursday, April 28th through Sunday, May 1st.


I couldn't tell you about the $10,000.00 Minnesota May Day Tournaments without first telling you how this all came to be. I couldn't tell you how this all developed without getting the information “from the horses mouth”. So, I phoned Fred Richardson . What was supposed to be a polite (because Fred is a busy man) 10-question interview turned into about an hour-and-a-half discussion. Fred regaled me with: the background story, and all the information, and the details about the May Day Tournaments. Unfortunately, the long and expertly detailed information was just too much for an article about the tournament. As, I'm not writing a biography of Fred's life, I'll just have to shorten all of Fred's answers into a summary.


I started by asking Fred, Who is organizing the May Day Tournaments and what are their backgrounds? Fred responded, “me” and paused. But, then he continued, “This is one hundred percent solely funded by myself… 10K.” Fred went on to explain who he is, “Let me tell you about myself, Fred Richardson. I've played (pinball) since 1992. I am a two-time (pinball) world champ… 1993 PAPA, Individual Doubles 1994, IFPA World Championship.”


Then I asked Fred, “Why do it?” He responded, “Good question… story behind it… Fred and Paul attended and won the doubles division of the 1995 Minnesota Tournaments (blurb).” He went to explain that JR (owner ‘Pinball Plus') lost money because only thirteen people registered. “Theisen said if 65 people attended, it (Minnesota May Day) would be a success.” Fred summarized, “The pinball heyday was, for me, 1990 to 2000, now we are down to one manufacturer.” After that summary, Fred led me down memory row and recapped his victories in various PAPA events and the 1995 Minnesota event.


He exclaimed, “I wasn't built that way”, explaining that playing game after game, on the same game to qualify was not the same as when, “I (Fred) excel at playing head-to-head”. Commenting about when the Dutch Pinball Association brought $2,000.00 seed money to assure their seed standings, Fred said, “This is not going to be like that kind of thing”.


Fred then told me that at last year's Expo , while drinking beer at Shoeless Joe's , his friends asked, “Hey Fed, when you going to have another tournament in Minnesota, Fred?” As a final summary to my question, Fred asked, “Why have this tournament ?” and answered, “For my friends”.


When I asked Fred, “Who is sponsoring or funding it?” he listed: “Lloyd is our number one sponsor – we couldn't do this without him or his arcade.”; “Mike of MAS Creations and Muddeatr – web, shirts, flyers”; “Stern Pinball – I hope to get plastics.” ; “ Italianni's – the restaurant I manage, the place we are going to have our five course dinner that's going to be incredible.”; “The Timber Wolves ” – we are going to have four games for ‘ FastBreak Foundation '.” ; “ Viking Trophies – we have some sweet trophies.”; “ AAA – they helped us distribute flyers.”; “ Shirt Werks ” – ‘comped' us some shirts”.


When I asked Fred, “Who did you invite and how?” He answered, Web site, e-mails, five-hundred flyers were put out by the ‘Triple A' route guys.” He continued, “ From the web, forty-two pre-registered … goal was thirty. Registration was from all over the U.S. : Boston, New York, California, Iowa.” He admitted that it was, “mostly word of mouth”.


When I asked Fred, “What are the prizes?” He responded, “There are three divisions … pinmaster - one through four: $2,500.00, $1000.00, $500.00, $250.00; open – there are: $500.00, $250.00, $100.00, $50.00; doubles – there's first $500.00 and second $250.00. Each person who registered will receive a commemorative flyer. There is a certificate of participation that will be signed by Fred and Lloyd.” Then, in confidence, Fred when into great detail describing both the trophies and the plaques. As the descriptions of the trophies and plaques were given to me in confidence, though they will be pictured later in this article, they will not be described here.

When I next asked Fred, “Why did you choose SS Billiards?” He told me, “Lloyd has been dedicated to pinball for thirty years. He deserves this.” Then Fred explained, “It's about getting everyone together.”

When I questioned Fred about, “How hard has it been to organize (compared to your expectations)?” He responded, “I am the end-all. The tournament has a face and I am that face.” Fred again recapped some of his experience from playing in PAPA. He summarized, “If I'm not playing, I'm refereeing ‘em.”


When asked, “Do you hope this will be an annual event?” Fred responded, “It depends upon how this weekend goes. It depends on the fallout.” Previously Fred explained that it wasn't about all of the many, many hours that he put into the event; just to get it organized. But, he did share some facts - “I've averaged twenty hours a week for three months; $500.00 silver sponsorship; $1,000.00 gold sponsorship; two-hundred-and –fifty T-shirts. No gold sponsors.” Fred concluded, “If people have fun … be a part of something cool.”

When asked about the planed future of the event, “Would you like the event to grow and if so, how?” Fred surmised, “Next year will have to be a bigger location.” Fred explained, “We could have to go somewhere else for this to expand.”

Fred was asked about the attention the event had drawn so far, “What publicity has the event attracted?” Fred explained, “I haven't had a lot of time for publicity. I'm counting on people like you (PBN).” Though, Fred did express a little bit of consternation about local sports celebrities in attendance, “The T-wolves aspect is curious. John Thomas ‘cornered' me and said ‘Man I love pinball!'” Fred explained how the appearance of celebrities could draw attention away form the event itself.


Then Fred finally concluded, “It's going to be a lot of fun!”


Fred instructed me (and the other volunteers) to meet him just one hour before the start of the May Day Tournaments. This was our first and last meeting.

The group receiving instructions

But Fred wasn't the only one whose good name and efforts helped to make the May Day Tournaments a success.

Though Lloyd has been fixing coin-op machines since he was a boy, I was the event's pinball technician. I offered my services for Lloyd, not because of Fred's request. I'm not in the above picture because I am taking the picture while giving Fred “Shit”.



There was lots of preparation going on inside Lloyd's arcade just one hour before the tournaments were to start.

Knowing that he'll be missed, Lloyd is quickly checking the pinball newsgroup RGP

The bank of pinball machines, set on “free-play" for the “Pin-Master” division.

Pictured are the plaques, or better yet, the trophies (from Viking Trophies) which we were competing for.

Fred talking to one of the volunteers at the director's table.

The people who got highest score on the charity games were to be awarded these prizes.

Translites and prizes donated from: Stern Pinball, Timber Wolves, and Italianni's.

Fred had his brain scanned to determine why he was “nuts” enough to try the tournament.



Everyone who pre-registered received this packet and a T-shirt with this design.


A few people brought in pinball machines, for Lloyd, to be used at the tournaments. With Lloyd's normal and party games: “Sorcerer”, “Blackout”, and “Big Bang Bar”, this made twenty-four games total.

Ross brought in his “Corvette”. Eric brought in “Rollergames” and “The Lost World”. Fred brought in “Sopranos”.

The machines were arranged and reserved in four sets: pinmaster, doubles, open, and charity.


The pinmaster division had one row of seven games. Twenty-one people competed in this division. The goal was to have sixty percent of the contenders qualify to compete.

Lord of the Rings
Jurassic Park, The Lost World
Demolition Man
Indy 500
Monster Bash


The doubles division had a row of four games. Eight people (four teams) competed in this division.

Tales From The Crypt
Pinball Magic
Eight Ball Deluxe


The open division had its row of nine games. Thirty-seven people competed in this division. The goal was to have fifty percent of the contenders qualify to compete.

The Addams Family Gold
Attack From Mars
Medieval Madness
South Park
Bram Stoker Dracula
No Good Go‘l'fers
Twilight Zone


The games reserved for charity were, in one row, by the front door. Three games were banked together and “Sopranos” was alone on the other side of the door. The money collected from these four games was slated to the “Timber Wolves” “FastBreak Foundation”. Registration was not required for playing these games. They were priced at one dollar per play. After the Minnesota May Day Pinball tournaments were completed, I made multiple attempts to contact Fred about the results of the fundraiser for “Timber Wolves” “FastBreak Foundation”. I got no response. Unable to get information from Fred, I went directly to the Timberwolves' FastBreak foundation. I spoke with the manager of community relations, Katie Kawecki. She informed me that she was in the same boat by saying, “Actually, I (Katie) haven't heard from Fred about the results of the fundraiser either.” But she did tell me, “We were pleased to have the Timberwolves' FastBreak foundation involved with this effort.” And, she went on to say that, “Any collected funds would go towards the FastBreak general fund.”

Big Bang Bar
Banzai Run
Safe Cracker
The Sopranos



Thursday was a half-day. This day was used for registration and qualifying. I didn't take a lot of pictures during the tournament because I didn't want to interfere with the players. There was good reason for my reserve. Rather than reporting actual problems, players reported preferences. One lady from the “open division” who called herself a “professional pinball player” explained to Lloyd, “There is a glare over the right fourth of this game (“Bram Stoker Dracula”) and the top corner of this game (“No Good Go‘l'fers”). Another example is one of the players from the “Pin-Master” division who complained, “It (the ball) can sometimes bounce off of this rubber and drain when the ball goes through this ramp.” Lloyd was always patient and helpful. He tried to be accommodating and did things like: remove part of the overhead lighting, and adjust ramps where the players wanted them. None of these small changes made the contestants better players, but Lloyd knew that making the changes made these people feel better.

Lloyd removed the bulb over the games at the far end; making that corner even darker.

Lloyd did a lot of work preparing and arranging the twenty-some pinball machines for the tournaments. Though one of the guest games was problematic, Lloyd's efforts showed how well and reliably his machines played. Lloyd's configuration provided plenty of room for people to compete and paths for others to walk around the contenders without even entering into the contenders' field of view. All of the machines were: level side-to-side, properly slanted, and clean - so play on the machines was fun and fast. Though a few problems were experienced during four days of heavy use through constant play, the few problems mostly consisted of stuck balls. As the Capcom and Sega machines were manufactured the same way, they did have their occasional and famous broken wire issue. Because of this known issue, a few broken wires were occasionally seen. The few stuck balls were immediately rescued. The few broken wires were immediately repaired. In four days there was one strange problem. Both flipper opto-board interrupters broke on “Monster Bash”. Lloyd quickly found new flipper opto-boards and replaced both assemblies. In the busy four days, there was only one intermittent problem with one machine. The “Looped-in-Space” lock on “Big Bang Bar” was intermittent. This was either due to an intermittent connection on the main board or in the wire harness. As the games were being constantly played, troubleshooting this intermittent was not an option. So, by the next morning, Lloyd had a new board installed in the game. (Author's observation: No wonder Gene can't seem to reproduce “Big Bang Bar” machines. Apparently, Lloyd has a “stash” of Capcom boards .)

As previously explained, I didn't take many pictures of people while they were competing. But, most serious pinball players have their favorite games. This gave me a peculiar photo-op. I did manage to take a picture of a group of “Open division” players waiting for “their” games to become available.

People waiting for their games to become available to make a qualifying attempt.



Friday was the first full day. It was also used for registration and qualifying. But, it wasn't all game play and competition. Play was for the soul, but food was needed for the body.

Here you can see hungry people who went next door to get something to eat while they waited for their names to be called.

Hungry competitors and “locals” went next door to eat or bring back one of many scrumptious sandwiches available.



While tournament play was fast-and-furious inside Lloyd's arcade, a light storm was brewing outside Lloyd's arcade.

As I previously stated, many people were contributing to Fred's tournaments only because of Lloyd. One of who was Steve Schukei, who brought his billion-plus candle-power (yes billion with a “B”) skylights on the trailer set-up that he had assembled and custom built.

I wanted to illuminate myself on why Steve would bring his skylight all the way from his car dealership, “1st Auto Sales”, in Mason City, Iowa . As I was reporting for PBN, I decided to ask him. While I interviewed Steve, his ten-year-old son John was busy putting up the third highest score of the entire tournament on Twilight Zone .

John, in his striped shirt, can be barely seen on the far left.

Steve started the interview by explaining the history of why he got the lights,
“My grandfather had lights for his dealership. My father had lights for his dealership. But, he sold them. He (Steve's father) was getting nostalgic about the lights so, I (Steve) bought these. They were custom ordered from Temecula, California .”

When I asked Steve why he brought in the lights for Lloyd. He said,
“I've owned and enjoyed pinball for a long time.”
“I know there is a pinball tie-in, but I don't directly see it”, I said. Steve modestly said,
“I'm just a pinball enthusiast and I'm doing this for Lloyd.”

Steve's interview was interrupted by a literal standing ovation as novice and pin-head alike celebrated the grand and accomplished score of 265,764,810 points that John, Steve's ten-year-old son, acquired during his attempt in the open division of the tournament.

Getting back to Steve, another example of Steve's unselfish commitment to pinball is the museum quality restoration that he performed on and 1938 Bally “Squadron”. The game is in an authentic reconstruction of a WWII era “officer's club” in the Mid America Air Museum. – MAAM .

Steve also shared his pinball link with PBN readers. I encourage you to take a look.



As qualification ended at noon, Saturday was the last chance to qualify.

Here you see a couple of guy's “practicing” on the “open” games.

Here you see two “Pin-Masters” qualifying.


Saturday night was the dinner. There was lots of good food to eat and Fred made a speech.


Dinner was served family style. It was an all-you-could-eat traditional Italian dinner. I was luck enough to sit near a few true pinball players. I remembered a few things that they said. I'd like to share just a few with you now. When asked what his all-time favorite pinball machine was, Paul Madison said, “When you get up and get dressed, you don't wear the same clothes every day. The same thing is true for pinball.” And, I'd like to share a quote from Josh Sharpe, “Everybody likes pinball, they just don't know it.”


After dinner but before desert, Fred made a speech. In that speech one of the things that he said was, “The coolest thing about tonight was listening to you (all of the people in the room) talking.” Fred was referring to the camaraderie and spirit of adventure that the group shared. He explained that he first shared that camaraderie in New York , “It was at that point that I started sucking people into my web.” He explained that he hoped that the tournaments would, “be more than playing pinball.” He hoped that we could all go out and, “enjoy the city … enjoy ourselves.”

He explained that when he goes to tournaments, “I (he) really go to see my friends.” Because, “Two-hundred man hours, ten-thousand dollars, it's a party to me.” Before Fred finished, he reminded us, “Don't forget to share that. Make friends.” Then he listed both his new and old friends by saying, “Top of the list … Lloyd.” Everyone applauded. Fred finally ended his speech by explaining, “For better or worse, you're part of the web now.”

Pictured is the group who went to the dinner.

Fred showed what he meant in his speech by offering free admission tickets to, “First Avenue”, to whoever wanted them. He also offered the choice of staying at “ “Italianni's” to play cards.


Sunday was another half-day and the last day of the tournaments. Sunday held the final rounds of competition. Again, for the sake of the players, I held off taking pictures until the end.


Now for the reason most of you are reading this article. You want to know who won the Minnesota May Day Pinball Tournaments.


The winners of the open division were announced first.

From left to right are the winners of the open division:
Eric Schmitt, Dan Doleny, Dan Stoddard, and Scott Tiesma.

Dan Dolney took: fourth place, fifty dollars, and a plaque.

Dan Stoddard took: third place, one hundred dollars, and a plaque.

Scott Tiesma took: second place, two hundred fifty dollars, and a plaque.

Eric Schmitt took: first place, five hundred dollars, and a trophy.



The winners of the pinmaster division were announced next.

From left to right are the winners of the pinmaster division:
Paul Madison Jason Werdrick, Josh Sharpe, and Zack Sharpe.

Paul Madison won: fourth place, two hundred fifty dollars, and a plaque.

Jason Werdrick won: third place, five hundred dollars, and a plaque.

Zack Sharpe won: second place, one thousand dollars, and a plaque.

Josh Sharpe took: first place, two thousand five hundred dollars, and a trophy.


Next announced were the winners of the doubles division.

From left to right are the winners of the doubles division:
Jim Belsito, Keith Elwin, Lyman Sheets, and Bowen Kerins.

The team of Bowen Kerins and Lyman Sheets took second place.
They won two hundred fifty dollars to share and each won a plaque.

The team of Keith Elwin and Jim Belsito took first place.
They won five hundred dollars to share and each won a trophy.


The high score winners were announced last.

Keith Elwin won high score on “SafeCracker”.

Bowen Kerins won high score on “Banzai Run”.

Paul Madison won high score on “Big Bang Bar”.

Jim Belsito won high score on “The Sopranos

What will next year bring? We'll just have to wait and see. You do hope to join us don't you?

With that though, the “2005 Minnesota May Day Tournament” write-up is concluded.


All pictures courtesy of Pinball Renaissance - TCFPA. All pictures taken with a Sony 3.3 mega-pixel MVC-CD300 digital still camera set to take fine pitch JPGs in auto mode.


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