• Season 3, Ep 6
  • 10/06/2015

Milton Bradley jumpstarts the board game industry, Roger Sharpe fights for pinball legalization in 1970s New York City, and Bobby Fischer becomes the World Chess Champion.

♪ The name of the game isWater or Vodka ♪

♪ Is it wateror is it vodka? ♪

Okay, three red.- Three.

That was vodka.

Now you spin.I don't.

♪ Bum-bum-bum-bum

16 red.

There it is.

You can't not tell!

- Hmm?- You have to say!

- What?- Which one are you drinking?

That one.

I'm so mad at you!

I hate you.

- Nice to see you.

- Ugh!

- [chuckles]

- Hello, todaywe're gonna talk

about Milton Bradley.

All right, so it's 1860,

and this 24-year-old guy named Milton Bradley

has this lithography business,

and his lithograph that he's selling

is of Abraham Lincoln.

But at this time,

Abraham Lincoln doesn't have a beard.

He's a shaved beast.- [chuckles]

- And Milton Bradley's like,

this is a good one to make,

'cause people will want it.

So they're selling like hotcakes.

Everyone loves 'em.

And then this little girl, Grace Bedell,

writes to Abraham Lincoln and she says,

if I were a woman, I would vote for--

Wait, no, she says,

if I were a man, I would vote for you.

But I'm a girl, and what you need to do

is you need to grow a beard,

because women love whiskers.

So, if women tell their husband

that they like you, to vote for you,

you'll get more votes if you have a beard.

So Abraham, like, gets this letter,

and he's like, notice anything different about me?

I got a beard, baby.

Isn't that cute?

So everyone in the whole country

gets newspapers with drawings of Lincoln,

and he's got a beard.

And they're like, I bought this lithograph

for, like, a bunch of money, and it's a joke now

because he's got a blank face, he's got a shaved face.

And Milton Bradley's like, I've spent all my ink

on all these garbage lithographs.

So he burns them all, and he's completely done for.

So he's like, I have this lithograph machine.

It's, like, this big hunk of junk.

I don't even have a good picture to print.

What am I gonna do?

So he goes to hang out withhis best friend, George Tapley,

and they're playing this, like, Puritan game.

It's, like, really boring.

So he realized during the game,

I could make a game better than this.

I could come up with a game

that people who aren't all Puritan-minded would enjoy,

and he calls his game The Checkered Game of Life.

The Checkered Game of Life!

And George was like, a new game to play.

Like, they didn't haveanything else

to entertain themselves,you know?

And Milton Bradley's like,

every other square has, like, a thing on it.

You know, and the goal is to reach

the ripe old age of 50.

And the not goal is to reach ruin

and have complete destruction in your life.

And in the middle, there was suicide.

Well, good night.

So, he goes to New York with the game,

and he's like, hey, everybody, I got this new game.

It's, like, American.

It's not just Puritan.

It's, like, [bleep] cool.

And everyone's buying it.

He sells 40,000 copies in one weekend.

- Let's do a shot, right?

- All right,let's cheers to--

- We haven't been drunktogether in a long time.

- This is very nice.

- What the [bleep]?

Come on, man!

- That's what makesa good friend.

How many people can I justslap in the face?

- Oh, [bleep].Ugh.

Yeah, that's what makesa good friend for Derek.

How many of his friendscan he slap in the face?

- Only one.

- Really?

Well, that makes mefeel good.


Today we're gonna talk aboutthe prohibition of pinball.


So, 1942,

Fiorello Henry La Guardia,

Mayor of New York, goes,

you know what, this pinball thing is evil.

We're gonna ban [bleep] pinball, dude.

Not gonna ball around.

You know, just it's a game.

We're gonna ban it. Why pinball?

Because pinball isa game of chance.

It's a [bleep] game, dude.

- Yeah.

- All right,so, the New York police

start raiding restaurants.

Oh, you got a pinball machine here.

So, it's okay if we [ bleep] it up.

The New York Police Department

confiscated the pinball machines.

La Guardia smashed them,

and then pushed them into the Hudson River.

A lot of smaller cities around America

would follow what New York did.

So all around America, yeah, pinball is illegal.

Cut to decades later in the early '70s,

there's this guy Roger Sharpe.

Roger Sharpe is this writer.

But what he does in his off time

is he plays pinball.

But he has to do it, like, under the radar,

because pinball is still illegal.

You know, Roger Sharpe.

he's one of the best in the world.

He's like, hey, I'm good at this.

I know how to make this pinball move,

and it's not chance,it's not gambling.

So, in the mist--

in the--in the midst--

in the midst--mist--mist--

- Mid--

- Midst.Is there a D in there?

Midst, right?- Mm-hmm.

- I'm serious. Midst?- Mm-hmm.

- In the midst of all this,

The American Music & Amusement Association,

which is kind of like

The Pinball Manufacturers of America, was like,

all right, look, pinball was declared illegal, right?

That's crazy. That's [bleep] crazy.

We have to do something. We have to save our industry.


- Jeez.

- So, the American Music& Music Association

call Roger Sharpe and they're like,

hey, we're [bleep] here.

You've gotta help us out.

And he goes, okay, I gotta do what I gotta do.

So, they bring Roger Sharpe

in front of the New York City Council

to try to get pinball legalized.

The news media is there. This is a big deal.

This is 1976.

I'm [bleep] up.

So there's kinda like this moment where he's like,

you know what, look,

if I'm good enough at pinball,

I can succeed at pinball.

I'm not just-- this isn't just gambling.

This is like, you know, I'm having fun.

This is-- this is a game of skill.

Does that make sense?


- Jeez.