Happy Thanksgiving!


Once a year in the United States families all over the country sit down at the dinner table to enjoy a repast with family and friends and celebrate Thanksgiving. During that meal almost every household will also go around the table and ask everyone what they are thankful for. This year Kevin and I would like to take just a moment to say that we are so thankful for all of the friends that the book has created for us. We’ve met wonderful people that started as colleagues and casual acquaintances and have become friends that we look forward to seeing whenever we can. Those friends come from Vineland, Philadelphia, Austin, San Francisco, New Orleans and may other places. To all of our friends and their families we’d just like to say, Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! Enjoy the day.


SR Author Travels | Austin Wrap-up


It was a great four days in Austin, Texas at the end of October for The BEEB! For the uninitiated, “BEEB” is short for the Brewskee-Ball National Championship Skee-Ball Tournament.

Kicking it off on Thursday, October 26, Thaddeus Cooper hosted a Facebook Live Event which was a great success, featuring Joey The Cat (three-time national champion), and Eric Schadrie from Bay Tek Games, which took over Skee-Ball manufacturing and sales last year. Not only did listeners get insight into the upcoming tournament, but also a sneak peek into the features on Bay Tek’s brand new alleys! Following the Facebook Live event was a Seeking Redemption’s author Meet-and-Greet at the beautiful rooftop bar of The Westin Downtown, complete with a swimming pool and a panoramic view of downtown Austin. This was also a chance to observe the October 31st birthday of Joseph Fourestier Simpson, the inventor of Skee-Ball. The event included a special cake to celebrate Simpson’s 165th birthday, and a memorable toast to him and his beloved invention.


Friday, Saturday and Sunday were busy days. Thaddeus was selling books at The BEEB as well as attending events and the competitions. Seeking Redemption was a great hit with all of those in attendance and Thaddeus read an excerpt from the book, the memorable story of the very first Skee-Ball National Championship games in 1932, at the closing Storytime on Sunday evening.

This year was a year for firsts, including the introduction of a brand new Skee-Ball alley, custom-designed by Bay Tek Games for the National Skee-Ball League. These alleys are outfitted with two cameras, to capture exciting real time video of the roller, the play field, and the score, enabling players at opposite ends of the country to “play together” in real time. The alleys are also fitted with a large video screen above the target, which showed the classic marquee displaying the score during game play, and a variety of images between games. With the installation of the new bank of alleys at the Full Circle Bar in Austin, someone had to roll the first ball. Eric Pavony, Skee-E-O of the Brewskee-Ball League, told us he debated long and hard on who that should be. Finally he decided that since Thaddeus Cooper had chronicled the first 108 years of the game, it was fitting he should roll the first ball, launching the next 100 years of Skee-Ball. Thaddeus was stunned by the honor, and happily rolled out the first ball, to cheers from the crowd that had gathered for the event on Thursday afternoon.

Saturday started with the MUG team competition, including teams from Austin, Texas; Brooklyn, New York; Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; and Wilmington, North Carolina, sporting their team T-Shirts. Team Skeesar Chavez of Austin won Saturday’s very intense competition. For the rest of the competition, many enthusiastic rollers showed up in costume, since the games were so close to Halloween this year, or simply wearing their usual, colorful Skee-Ball performance attire.

Sunday was dedicated to individual roller competition. The big news that evening was two roll-offs of note. The first was between Sarah O and Joey The Cat.  Sarah was on fire that night, scoring a victory over Joey, with a score of 358 to 346. The final roll-off was between Skeevi Strauss and Sarah O, with Skeevi finally winning first place, and the coveted Cream Jacket for this year’s tournament.

This year’s BEEB was a rockin’ good time! And it was a great time to re-connect with old friends and make some new ones, to see Skee-Ball history in the making, and to get a first look at the exciting future of national Skee-Ball tournaments.


SB History | Skee-Ball’s Inventor: Joseph Fourestier Simpson


Joseph Fourestier Simpson (Courtesy Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society)

Joseph Fourestier Simpson (Courtesy Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society)

Finally, Simpson developed the most successful and groundbreaking invention of his career: the game of Skee-Ball, which he patented in 1908.

Joseph Fourestier Simpson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 31, 1852, to a merchant class family. His father sold cotton duck fabric for sails, work clothes and tarpaulins right up to the end of the Civil War, when the southern sources for cheap cotton dried up. He passed away soon after that, leaving Simpson fatherless at age 17, just as the young man was getting ready to make his way in the world. Simpson was an exceptional young man, meticulous, highly observant, curious and tenacious when ideas caught his attention. And unlike his merchant father, he had a passionate desire to invent.

Starting as a railway clerk, Simpson worked hard, and within a few years, he started his own lumber planing business. And he started inventing. While running the mill, he patented an ingenious over-center trunk latch, which allowed an overfilled travel trunk to be closed easily. Although it was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and commended for “utility and low cost,” he was unable to find a manufacturing and sales outlet for his invention. He closed his planing business and worked with his cousin to develop and patent a ratchet wrench, but ran into the same problem in finding manufacturing and sales. He continued to struggle with ups and downs of the industrial economy, reinventing himself as a manager, an attorney working in real estate, an investor and broker for mining and railway projects, and a manufacturer of knitted goods.  Simpson was working tirelessly to advance himself on his own merit in an unforgiving economy that treated those without independent family wealth harshly.

In his middle years around the turn of the century, Simpson became even more creative, with a plethora of innovations and inventions. Refined sugar had just been introduced to the market, and Simpson planned on using the new ingredient to create a health candy. He came up with the idea of selling stamps that could be affixed to a postcard and redeemed at the other end for small amounts of cash, calling his invention a “postal check.” He worked for years on building a better bicycle seat to cash in on the fast growing bicycle craze. He invented a clever board game based on managing two way rail traffic on a single set of tracks. He still had a problem attracting capital and businessmen to manage and promote his innovations, and one by one, they fizzled.

Finally, Simpson developed the most successful and groundbreaking invention of his career: the game of Skee-Ball, which he patented in 1908. He had learned a lot of lessons over the course of his career, and every one of them went into making Skee-Ball a success. He incorporated key features to make this a fascinating game for players, and a great money-maker for operators, with an automatic coin box and ball release, as well as automatic scoring and ball return. The game was designed so there was no need to reset pins or targets, and no need to keep score manually. That meant that, there was no need to employ an attendant to collect money or reset the game for the next player.  The Skee-jump proved to be just the right twist for making the game more fascinating and challenging for players. Simpson proved to be a visionary, with a game appealing to a brand new and expanding audience. Simpson noted that these people were the “nervous and imaginative types” who were attracted by the game’s uniqueness and “fast play excitement” in contrast to the slower more traditional game of bowling.

Simpson did his best to prepare for business success. He attracted a deep pocket investor, William Nice Jr., and an enthusiastic young man, John W. Harper, to manufacture and sell the alleys. But fate intervened. After only a few months, William Nice Jr. passed away unexpectedly, and Simpson and Harper struggled to find someone to take over manufacturing and promotion of the game. This effort was thwarted by businesspeople too conservative and lacking in vision to appreciate his breakthroughs.

In the end, it was a Skee-Ball player and enthusiast who bought them out. Jonathan Dickinson Este had the advantages that Simpson lacked: a father who was a successful business owner; a Princeton University education including the financial and business contacts he made there; and the resources to continue to refine what Simpson developed. But Simpson was the visionary, the tireless inventor, striving with all of his intelligence, tenacity and creativity against all odds to gift the planet with the longest lived and most beloved arcade game ever invented: Skee-Ball.

Simpson continued to invent, including a crate suitable for shipping eggs long distance, and another promising game called Bridgeball. Sadly, after initial promise, these inventions also failed to take hold. He retired to write the family genealogy, and manage some internal family affairs. Simpson passed away in 1930, living long enough to see Skee-Ball become a phenomenal success, but unfortunately, never partaking of the true financial fruits of his labors.


SR Profile | Thaddeus Cooper In Austin


Seeking Redemption recently got a chance to sit down with Thaddeus Cooper, co-author of “Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball” to chat with him about his upcoming trip to Austin, Texas this October between the 25th and 30th.

Seeking Redemption: Thanks for taking some time to sit down and talk to us.

Thaddeus Cooper: My pleasure.

SR: So, you’re bound for Austin TX at the end of the month. Why are you going?  (And what does it have to do with Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball?)

TC: Well, I’m going to Austin to be at The BEEB, the Brewskee-Ball National Championship for 2017.   [The] Brewskee-Ball National Championship is the biggest Skee-Ball event of the year.  We’ve made friends with a lot of folks when we were working on the book— Eric Pavony, and a bunch of cool people including champions Brewbacca and Skeevi Strauss. I’ll be selling both the hardback and softcover books and I’ll be giving away books as prizes for the winners at the events. These events are amazing. The rollers take Skee-Ball to a whole new level of play.

SR: Who’s involved? Who will you be seeing?

TC: Eric Pavony is the mover and shaker behind the league. He also co-owns the Full Circle Bar in Austin, where the BEEB is happening. 

We’re also hoping to see a bunch of the prior years champions— Joey Mucha (Joey the Cat) who’s won three times, Roy Hinojosa (Brewbacca) who won last year, Tracy Townsend, who goes by Trace-Face, and in 2015 was the first woman ever to win a National championship in Skee-Ball. 

There are also a bunch of great rollers from Austin that I met on my first trip and I’m looking forward to seeing again. I understand some of San Francisco contingent is coming, don’t know who yet.  

And we’ll see Holly Hampton, from Bay Tek Games (manufacturer of Skee-Ball alleys) and some folks she’s bringing with her. It’s going to be a great chance to see old friends and meet more folks who are very enthusiastic about our book and the documentary project. 

SR: What are you going to do in Austin while you’re there?

TC: The actual BEEB event is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Thursday evening, I’m hosting a FaceBook live event with at least one special guest, and we’ll be talking about Austin, and the BEEB—that will be around 7-8pm Central Standard Time. Immediately following that, I’ll be heading to the rooftop bar of the downtown Westin (weather permitting) for an Author Meet-and-Greet from 8pm on. In case of rain, we’ll be down in the first floor bar there at the Westin. We’ll also be lifting a glass to Joseph Fourestier Simpson, the original inventor of Skee-Ball, who was born Oct 31,1852.  Friday through Sunday, we’ll be at the event, selling books with special event pricing discounts, And we’re looking forward to being on hand for the presentation of books to five of the winners as part of the event. So we’re really excited, and it will be really cool to meet everybody who has expressed interest in the book and see everybody over the course of those few days.  

SR: Where will you be in Austin?  When will things be happening?

TC: The event will be held at the Full Circle Bar 1810 E. 12th Street, Friday thru Sunday October 27, 28, 29.. We’ll have our Thursday events on October 26 at the Westin Austin, Downtown 310 East 5th Street starting at 7pm, and meeting in Azul, the rooftop bar, weather permitting, from 8-10pm.

You can find the full schedule for all of The BEEB related events here.


Inside Seeking Redemption News October 9, 2017

In this edition of Inside Seeking Redemption News we talk profile the Full Circle Bar in Austin, Texas, have a little Skee-Ball history about Harrigan’s in Atlanta, Georgia, and more information about my upcoming trip to Austin. If you’d like to get more Seeking Redemption News delivered straight to your inbox you can signup for our news letter at srsignup.nomoreboxes.com.

In case you’ve missed any of our previous episodes you can watch them on our Vimeo Channel, Inside SR News.

Inside SR News October 9, 2017 from Thaddeus Cooper on Vimeo.


SB History | Harrigan’s

The Constitution, Oct. 10, 1917

The Constitution, Oct. 10, 1917

One hundred years ago a luncheonette in Atlanta, Georgia may have been the hippest place around. Why? Because in addition to having a soda fountain, they had Skee-Ball.

When they opened after the Great Fire in May of 1917, Harrigan’s was located on Marietta Street in Atlanta, right down the street from the Post Office, the Customs House and City Hall. The large display ad that ran on October 10, 1917 in The Constitution touted their “up-to-the-minute lunch”, and encouraged people to “Follow the crowd” to lunch and try their hand at a brand new game: Skee-Ball.   The rest of the ad featured descriptions and endorsements for the game from all over.

The New York Sun article proclaimed:

“Skee-Ball burst into bloom on the Great White Way yesterday and until a late hour last night New York business men were trying to find the secret of landing the ball in the 50 disc and thus making the highest possible count at the new game.”

There was also a quote from the Philadelphia Public Ledger:

“Many who have found bowling too strenuous and not enough action in the cue games, are getting all they desire out of the Skee-Ball. This game provides all the spirit of competition without too much labor. It requires considerable skill and consistent study to improve the game.”

There was even an excerpt from the Philadelphia Record that included Charles Bender, the pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, who had sponsored the first Skee-Ball tournaments at his sporting goods store:

“Chief Bender tried his hand at a comparatively new sport last night when he tried to wrest the Skee-Ball championship of Philadelphia and environs from the present holder of the title, A. J. Carty. The ‘Chief’ failed to capture the title but made a creditable showing.”

It seems that Harrigans was the very first place that introduced Atlanta to Skee-Ball. An article in The Constitution the following day read:

“‘Skee Ball,’ the latest of sports…has been introduced in Atlanta at Harrigan’s, 14 Marietta street. 

Wherever skee ball has been introduced, it has been an instant hit. … The game requires considerable skill and study to become proficient, but is amusing and entertaining to the star player and dub alike. Skee ball seems destined to stay here some time.”

The second advertisement was recurring and ran between November 9, 1917 and December 19, 1917. This advertisement featured little other than the luncheonette’s slogan, “Cleanliness our Motto”  and “Skee-Ball.”

Most other venues, like Sacandaga near Utica, New York and Marshall Hall in Washington, DC, that had Skee-Ball in this period, would lump Skee-Ball in with their other amusements. Few if any, gave the game top billing the way that Harrigan’s did, which is what made the Harrigan’s advertisement so unique.

It’s unknown how successful Harrigan’s continued to be, or how successful Skee-Ball became as a result, but it’s a great example of how important Skee-Ball was just a few years after it’s introduction.


SR Profile | Full Circle Bar • Austin

Exterior Full Circle Bar

Exterior Full Circle Bar

The Full Circle Bar-Austin is located on 12th street, just a ten minute drive from downtown, and it’s the ultimate destination for Skee-Ball enthusiasts and rollers. It features six competition level Skee-Ball alleys, craft beer, a tater tot concession, a fun atmosphere and great rolling. That’s no coincidence.

Overhead is a huge sign that proclaims, “I Believe In Yourself.”

The bar is co-owned by Eric Pavony (we recently profiled Eric here), who also co-owns the original Full Circle Bar in Brooklyn, NY. Eric is the Skee-E-O of the Brewskee-Ball League, which has teams of competitive Skee-Ball players all over the US. Both Full Circle bars were opened with the express intention of providing a super-friendly place to play competitive Skee-Ball, and  to have a great time just rolling with your friends.

While there are currently Brewskee-Ball teams in Austin, Brooklyn, NY, Gainesville, FL, Los Angeles, CA, Philadelphia, PA (currently on hiatus), San Francisco, CA and Wilmington, NC, the Austin location boasts some of the most impressive rollers in the league, and it’s due in part to having a home venue with its entire focus on Skee-Ball.

I was fortunate enough to arrive there in time for the Skeeson 25 Championship of Brewskee-Ball league play. When I found the place, I was first struck by the fact that the bar is located in a modest, salmon-pink, Spanish style building, sandwiched in between other bars and eateries on an unpretentious neighborhood street. At sunset, the light plays off the building creating a soft glow. But the simple, modest exterior is deceptive.

As soon as you step inside, this place screams Skee-Ball, from the redemption tickets that outline the door, to the ginormous teddy bear and other boardwalk prizes high on a shelf near the patio doors, and Brewskee-Ball memorabilia hanging on the walls.

Overhead is a huge sign that proclaims, “I Believe In Yourself.” Eric explained that this is what teammate Wayne Holley told him, to give him inspiration when Eric was having a difficult time scoring in a game they were playing together. It worked. Eric says, “It has now become a phrase used to encourage and inspire people in the league, not just while playing Skee-Ball, but while overcoming any of life’s challenges.” Now, the quote is emblazoned at ceiling level to inspire everyone who plays at Full Circle Bar. It’s also a great conversation starter.

Just beyond the sign is the bank of six Skee-Ball alleys, with two large displays that show the scores during competition play. The alleys take up a substantial part of the bar. In front of the alleys are tables for people to sit and watch competition or casual play, or just hang out and talk.

To the right is a long bar with a friendly bartender and a a fine selection of lovely beverages. The bar features local craft beers as well as retro cocktails. I ordered a local IPA that was delightful. So were the tater tots, a concession that’s a specialty of the house. After getting my beer, I settled in to watch the competition. I’ve never seen Skee-Ball played at this level: Rollers routinely calling a particular score, and then rolling it, or calling and rolling repeated 40s, 50s, or hundos. These players take performance rolling to a new level.  The mood of the crowd started off noisily enthusiastic, and by the end of the night, it was so intense that everyone was on their feet to see the last frame of the competition. In the end, the Full Circle Jerks team took the win. Puns are a big part of of the Brewskee-Ball League tradition.

Later, I took to the lanes while the real rollers were out back relaxing. After rolling a 360, a very respectable score, I decided to go out on a high note and called it a night for rolling.

I wandered out back to the patio, where you can enjoy your beverage in the warm Texas evening, and play some outdoor games if you choose. It’s a welcoming space where you’ll also find them hosting informal talks and social events.

Full Circle Bar is a great place for Skee-Ball enthusiasts and rollers alike. With its terrific selection of beers and cocktails, you’re sure to find something tasty and cool to enjoy in the open and friendly atmosphere. I highly recommend this place.



Full Circle Bar
1810 E 12th St.
Austin, TX 78702
Hours: Mon.-Sun. 5:00PM-2.00AM
P: 512.814.0211


SR Profile | Eric Pavony Skee-E-O


Eric Pavony

Eric Pavony is an entrepreneur, all around athlete, and Skee-Ball player who calls Austin, Texas his home these days. He got the idea for competitive Skee-Ball in 2005 and conceived of a Skee-Ball league which he named Brewskee-Ball, and he hasn’t looked back since. Seeking Redemption’s co-author, Thaddeus Cooper, was fortunate enough to get to sit down with Eric for an interview at the end of Skeeson 25 in March of 2017. Early in the interview Eric told SR, “My life is a Skee-Ball story.”


“…one thing led to another and I inevitably challenged Evan to a competitive game of Skee-Ball”


Seeking Redemption: Besides Skee-Ball what other sports do you play?

Eric Pavony: Basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, softball. I run a lot. I played soccer as a child.

SR: When and where did you start playing Skee-Ball?

EP: When I was a kid, I used to play predominantly at Chuck E. Cheese’s for birthday parties. I was born and raised in New York. Lived in the Bronx early in my childhood and then my folks moved to Westchester County. So I don’t know exactly where the closest Chuck E. Cheese was back in the day, but I do remember playing at Chuck E. Cheese’s for birthday parties and always running towards the Skee-Ball machines first thing upon arrival. And I also remember taking trips to boardwalks, you know, probably once a year with my family for summers and, again, racing to the lanes. So a combination of boardwalks on the Jersey Shore and Chuck E. Cheese’s in New York.

SR: How did the BrewSkee-Ball League come about?

EP: [I]t was truly a moment in time. [In] August 2005, myself and my good buddy Evan ran a magazine, a Brooklyn news and arts magazine called BLOCK magazine. It was for Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Great little magazine. Really, really fun and we had a blast doing it. And it was a super-duper hot August day and summers were dead for BLOCK. It was really difficult to get any advertising money. So we were sitting there kind of bored out of our minds in my apartment which we worked out of. And I got this sudden crazy itch to play Skee-Ball. And Evan loves Skee-Ball, too. And I don’t think we really ever talked much about Skee-Ball until that day. And I was just like, let’s go play Skee-Ball! [W]e looked up where you could play Skee-Ball in and around Brooklyn at the time and there wasn’t many places to play other than, really, Dave and Busters in Times Square, which was just not the right vibe. It was indoors, it was in the heart of Times Square on a crazy summer day. Or [we could go to] Coney Island, which is amazing. I love Coney Island. It’s one of my favorite places in New York.

And so we said, screw it! So we just up and left, took the F train down to Coney Island, found some super-duper old Skee-Ball lanes and we just started playing. And one thing led to another and I challenged Evan to a “Skee-Ball Showdown.” Because it was fun, we were rolling Skee-Ball and it was definitely very satisfying. But I’m a pretty competitive guy, certainly when it comes to games. I like to play games and I like to win those games. And the sillier the game, typically the more I want to win them. So one thing led to another and I inevitably challenged Evan to a competitive game of Skee-Ball, which I had never done up until that point, nor had Evan. [S]o we started playing and over the course of a few hours while we were there, we were starting to build a structure and a framework for how competitive Skee-Ball could work. Oh, what if we did this? Oh, what if we did that? We started basically laying the ground rules for competitive Skee-Ball. And it was amazing. It was more fun than I ever had playing Skee-Ball in my life, as an adult and playing it competitively.

And so on the way back on the train, we had plenty of time to talk about what would ultimately become the blueprint for Brewskee-Ball. You know, how many people on a team, what types of strategy people would employ, how do we keep score. You know, do people win things for various frames. How we do we do standings. And then obviously where can we do this? And obviously there was only one answer for where we can host an adult competitive Skee-Ball leagues, and that was at a bar. Because we said the one thing that was missing you know? We were adults, we were competing, but there was no beer. And we were like, this would be so unbelievably fun at our favorite bar with our favorite beer and our favorite friends.

SR: How did you come up with the name?

EP: I came up with the name instantly, Brewskee-Ball. It was really like that. I was sitting there later that night, I think by, myself and it just, boom, lightbulb: Brewskee-Ball.

SR: How do you feel about the Brewskee-Ball league now and how is it growing?

EP: Well, it’s been 11 years and I’m feeling great about it. I feel like I know more than ever what the Brewskee-Ball league is, and what it should be and what it can be. And what I mean by that is that when we started, you know, it was sort of a blank canvas and we didn’t know what it was or what it was going to be. And in time it turned into both a recreational and social league, but also a very competitive league, too. And it still has those components. You had these players that have honed their skills and gotten tremendously good. And so you had new fresh-faced rookies going into the Brooklyn league or the New York league at the time and, you know, fresh-faced rookies going into the Wilmington league or the San Francisco league, and then new leagues starting, you know, which was all fresh-faced rookies.

SR: What drives expanding interest in the leagues?

EP: Skee-Ball’s timeless. You know, Skee-Ball itself is the initial attraction and it’s proven itself to me as the most popular game in American history, you might say. Not necessarily sport. [T]hey say baseball’s America’s pastime, but, you know, you could make the argument that Skee-Ball could be considered that, too. And I think that it starts with the game itself having that just uncanny draw and that unbelievable knack to make everybody happy. And then you layer on top of that this new way to play it, this new way to interact with it. This new environment that we’ve built around it. And then it’s just gasoline on a fire from that point. I mean a lot of people would be happy arbitrarily rolling balls up the Skee-Ball lane for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours. We’ve given that context; we’ve given it meaning. And we’ve also given it a community. And so, that combination is amazing. And that’s why it continues to grow.

SR: Thanks Eric!

So there you have it. Brewskee-Ball has taken the naturally fascinating game of Skee-Ball to the next level with context, meaning and community. And what community: Folks have met, fallen in love and gotten married because of the Brewskee-Ball community.

This Week In Skee-Ball History

August 18, 1918

100 years ago, this week in 1917, The J. D. Este Company ran an ad in The Billboard for Skee-Ball Alleys with a testimonial from Mr. Geo. H. Russell, Manager of the Skee-Ball Alleys at Savin Rock in West Haven, Connecticut. Russel called the alleys a “howling success.”

“The alleys at Wilcox’s are a howling success and are taking in more money than any $10,000 investment at this resort and gaining each week on a daily average.”

Not much has changed! Skee-Ball is still one of the most popular games ever.


Authors Give Talk About Skee-Ball History at California Extreme

Thaddeus Cooper and Kevin Kreitman recently gave a talk at California Extreme in Santa Clara, California about the history of Skee-Ball. California Extreme is the “Classic Arcade Games Show.” It’s a huge annual celebration of coin operated pinball machines, video games and other novelties you once found in game arcades. Here are some highlights from Thaddeus and Kevin’s talk.