Steve Epstein – share your stories

As some of you may already know, Steve has begun the fight of his life against an aggressive cancer. As a resource for Steve, I wanted to use this platform as a place for people to share their stories on how Steve has impacted their lives, but just as important how competitive pinball has impacted your lives. Without Steve Epstein, competitive pinball wouldn’t be “a thing”.

It’s easy for me to point to my dad meeting my mom as the most important relationship that formed in my lifetime. That relationship gave me life. Right behind that would be the importance of my dad and Steve meeting all those years ago. That relationship gave my life meaning.

The bond they formed through their common love of pinball lead to the idea that it could be viewed as a legitimate form of competition. The impact that idea had on my life is immeasurable. I wake up every day thinking about what I can do to help spread that love of competitive pinball to as many people as I can reach. That passion is directly linked to how Steve approached his daily relationship with competitive pinball from the Broadway Arcade days, to the creation of PAPA, to the creation of IFPA. This continued into 2020 with Steve recently joining the Project Pinball Charity team.

I can remember sitting with my dad and Steve at dinner back at Pinball Expo 2005. We talked about the potential re-launch of the IFPA (which ended up happening a few months after that dinner conversation). We talked about the idea of being able to grow this player base of 500 players to over 1000 players as one of our biggest goals, with the WPPR system being the catalyst to motivate that growth. As I sit here 14 years later, looking at the number of 78,870 ranked players in our system, it’s clear to me that the legacy of what my dad and Steve set out to do all those years ago will continue to live on for generations to come.

My thoughts and prayers to Steve, Sondy, Dale, Erica and the rest of the Epstein family as they begin this fight. The Sharpe family wouldn’t be what it is today without all of you.

For anyone that has similar stories to share, we welcome that through our website comments. We will be sharing this directly with Steve as he begins his fight.

17 responses to “Steve Epstein – share your stories”

  1. Zach Sharpe says:

    The stories of Steve’s impact on my life are incalculable for so many reasons being part of the “Sharpe” family and that extends far beyond pinball. But fun story I wanted to share while on the topic of pinball is one of the highlights for both Josh and I prior to our older brother Seth’s wedding. Don’t get me wrong, being part of a wedding was a special day and memory for us both, how could it not, but at the time being 13 and 15 years old respectively, the highlight of that entire weekend of events was no doubt getting a special VIP treatment and trip to the Broadway Arcade with just us and “Uncle Steve” as I’ve always loved to refer him by! Steve gave us an endless supply of quarters, a seemingly endless amount of a special order of NY style pizza and we were simply let loose to run wild and play everything in sight. While Josh and I were both born in NY, we never really got to appreciate and enjoy the Broadway Arcade for what it was worth at its pinnacle until that day, and it’s a memory that will forever be ingrained.

    I’ll echo my thoughts and prayers to the entire Epstein family at this time and fight and really look forward to seeing how Steve directly impacted others’ lives and reading through those stories. Forever, #PlayStrong

  2. Jeff Teolis says:

    I cannot tell you how sad I am to hear this news. Steve’s vision and passion has provided me and many others so much joy over the years.

    Papa.org has great articles about Steve and his work, the formation of PAPA, and Flipside archives.

    Great recent video of Steve on reddit:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/pinball/comments/e19k02/steve_epstein_interview_at_iaapa_2019_new_york/

    Here’s a great NYTimes article too.
    https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/22/nyregion/about-new-york-the-pinball-capital-of-the-world-cries-tilt.html

    Also, last November, I released one of my fav episodes I’ve ever done to capture a glimpse of Steve’s career:
    https://www.pinballprofile.com/episode-230-steve-epstein/

    We are all thinking of you Steve

  3. Greg Poverelli says:

    I’ve always looked up to Steve as a local pinball hero. He has always been such a kind man and positive influence in NYC pinball, from before my time with Broadway Arcade, opening Modern Pinball, playing together at the Vault, to recently with advocating for charity kids events. I remember being welcomed to his home on a weekend where we all played a tournament in NJ. We stayed in the basement where we got to play Barracora alongside amazing photos of Steve and Roger. Josh was super excited to see those photos. Pinball brings so much joy to all of us in this amazing community and none of that would be possible without Steve and Roger. Thank you for that Steve, we all look up to and care about you immensely. Sending you and family positive energy and love, you are in our prayers.

  4. Neil McRae says:

    I don’t know Steve that well but without knowing too much about the history of pinball at the time in 1994/5 whilst building Internet infrastructure at 25 Broadway (Telehouse data centre) my first visit to NYC I went to Times Square found his arcade although I didn’t understand the significance of the place but wow! after only ever seeing BoP and T2 in 1991 back home in the UK I was amazed to find there was so many pinball machines. When I next returned to NYC sadly it had closed. I didn’t play pinball again until 2016 (work kept me busy) and I went to NYCPC first event, and found myself sitting next to Steve and he told me of his involvement in pinball and the fact he had owned the arcade I’d gone to (he couldn’t believe that after playing for only a couple of years I’d come all the way to NYC from London!). His passion for the game is amazing and he even gave me a couple of pointers on Tommy and made me an my wife feel hugely welcome in New York where the love for him locally was in abundance! Wishing you well Steve!

    https://scontent.flhr4-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/101686378_2978006298980781_4351478822118359040_o.jpg?_nc_cat=106&_nc_sid=8024bb&_nc_ohc=3FyA59aUBfcAX_G7hw-&_nc_ht=scontent.flhr4-1.fna&oh=52a866a324613a781bb3e0cd19d79b69&oe=5EFCB98B

  5. I receive a call that plunged my heart into instant sorrow.

    My close friend, Steve Epstein called to share his tragic news about his health.

    We become close from working together on several Project Pinball Charity projects that will be a benefit to children and their families.

    I found quickly that he is always easy to work with. Always full of energy and plenty of ideas. We hit it off instantly. When we were together, we would sit and talk for hours about special projects that need to be done. Then the phone calls were almost just as long to share more details and ideas about how to make it happen.

    He has a wonderful huge heart that cares about others. AND his love of pinball is legendary and there at the front of his soul for all to see…such passion!

    It is when a friend is fighting for their life that really reminds you that life is so fragile at times like these.

    Steve has begun the fight of his life against his aggressive cancer, please let us all take a moment to pray for strength to be his when he needs it the most and let’s wish him the best and a speedy recovery.

    -Daniel

  6. Roger Sharpe says:

    I do believe that the majority of folks know the friendship and bond I so dearly share with Steve Epstein. He is my kindred spirit, my brother from another Mother and our more than four decades together speaks volumes about us. For those who know us only too well, we are Felix and Oscar, Abbot and Costello—the perfect foils for each other. Or as I like to think, I’m Michael Jordan and Steve is my wingman, my Scottie Pippen. Together we are, were and always will be an unshakeable force where all that we have accomplished couldn’t have happened without being the best of each other and for each other.

    The Broadway Arcade—that preeminent cathedral in the heart of the New York City theater district is where the magic happened. It was a melding pot of actors, musicians, and business people from all walks of life and when one passed through that door, there was a sense of being ‘home’. That’s where our paths first crossed, not knowing until later, that we were separated at birth. It was Steve’s willingness to be open to my suggestions and the endless conversations we shared about pinball and life in general.

    Steve’s two daughters—Erica and Dale were born just a couple of years apart and around the same time as Josh and Zachary. We would drive from NYC down to New Jersey for an afternoon of the families being together as Ellen and Sondy grew close as well. We were an extended family and life’s seminal moments were shared. Even Steve closing down the arcade on the evening of November 14th 1978 and greeting Ellen and I in his brown tuxedo with champagne glasses filled and lined up because where else should someone celebrate their wedding? Playing pinball was part of our DNA.

    The original corner location at 52nd and Broadway was a two floor marvel—pool tables downstairs and the fresh smell of roasted nuts upstairs along with the display cases holding all kinds of wonders. And then, that array of machines—soon to also become the beacon of pinball paradise when the laws changed.

    The ritual was simple in the beginning. Getting change from this young fellow wearing an apron holding those dear and essential quarters and, of course, the necessary bills if you were going to truly invest in that escape from the real world. After a time, as a regular visitor, we exchanged names and then the miraculous happened. Steve invited me into the back room where I could stow my shoulder bag and coat or jacket (depending on the season and weather) before venturing out to play pinball.

    I was living in the city and in the morning on my way to work, there was the stop at the arcade to bid Steve a “hello” before heading to the office. Lunch time? The trek from 6th Avenue and 55th and then 52nd and Madison, for some pinball and, of course, after work—where else could I go before heading home? More pinball.

    This soon expanded as I would travel back uptown when Steve was closing the arcade for our marathon pinball playing as he was making collections from the machines and there was a ‘wall’ to play. Maybe two walls of games to play. Each of us believing and wanting to know—“who is the better player?” Suffice it to say, we each had our days (and nights). And from that the seeds were planted for what ultimately became PAPA which morphed into the IFPA and our mutual contribution to the world of competitive pinball.

    I could go on and on with endless stories of Steve helping with Sharpshooter. Both of us bringing Barracora to life and so much more. Our paths, unfortunately, don’t cross as much as they used to. There have been the infrequent golf outings in Florida and the random times of playing in Chicago. Those trips from long ago traveling to Chicago for the industry trade shows and sharing a hotel room with descriptions of that better left for another time. We are yin and yang. Connected at the hip and the flipper fingers and can’t wait to play together again and again and again….love you my man!

  7. Norma Jennings says:

    I love this guy, and I barely even know him! Steve, I was introduced to you at Pinburgh last year and felt the same wellspring of joy as when I had been introduced to Roger Sharpe just a couple of years earlier.

    I lived within driving distance of the Broadway Arcade but rarely ever went until my dad took me one time. We didn’t stay long – he wasn’t too keen about New York City’s denizens back then – but I remember being overwhelmed by how many pinballs were in that building. It seemed like a lot busier place than a typical arcade. Maybe it was the Grand Central Station of pinball!

    I read an article recently about how Steve just knew how many quarters to give you when you asked for change and would quickly dump them in your hand. Then I had an amazing flashback memory of handing either one or two dollars to the change guy and him blindly putting quarters in my hand without counting them while talking to someone else. Steve, that must have been you!

    I wish you all of God’s strength right now, Steve, and you should know there are a whole world of people who love what you have done for us!

  8. Gordon says:

    I don’t think I ever formally met Steve but I’m sure I talked to him many times. I was fortunate to be living close to NYC in the 80’s. There was still much pinball to go around then, from arcades in Penn Station to the Jersey shore. But Broadway arcade was the mecca. What a great place, yes a bit crowded but oh what a line up. And the area was so great, getting a slice at Joe G’s and getting hammered at McGee’s. I moved around 1990 and don’t think I got back much before they closed. When I would visit, every place else was gone basically. Then I found Reciprocal skate shop, which was awesome. Jon and his staff were always great even though I had no interest in skateboarding, only pinball. Later came Modern Pinball, man that was great. Have played and continue to play there every time I’m in town. Now Jon is in Brooklyn, trying to hold on and I’m hoping that Modern is doing okay. Just want to say thank you to Steve for all he has given me and I wish him and his family peace and love.

  9. Jody Jodon says:

    I met Steve for the first time at Silverball museum. My profile pic is him and I after I won a tournament at Silverball. Respect him alot, I’d call him Mr Epstein for what he did for pinball.

  10. barry blaine says:

    I have known Steve for over 50 years. I grew up playing pinball at his arcade on 52nd Street and Broadway. My mother played there in the 30’s and 40’s when it was his father’s place. In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I used to meet my brother at lunch hour every day at Steve’s place. By the mid 90’s we became more than “pinball buddies”. He and Sondy often come in to Manhattan to meet my wife and I for brunch, lunch or dinner. We have way too much golf left to play for him to go anywhere. He and Sondy are our closest friends. He has always been there for me, and, I will always be there for him.

  11. Don Coons says:

    I don’t really remember when I first officially met Steve, but I do know I knew about him long before. From reading stories on RGP about Broadway arcade from my New York friends, to Steve providing me trophies when I first started the Chicago Pinball League.

    I am a long term friend and golfing buddy with Roger Sharpe, so it was like we were old friends when I did formally meet him. It’s the type of person Steve is, you are immediately comfortable around him. Hearing the interaction between Steve and Roger (and echoing Roger’s Felix and Oscar analogy) has always been fun to watch.

    It’s always a pleasure to hang out with Steve, share a meal, and possibly play a round. I had the opportunity to do this at the last Pinball Expo, and it was as enjoyable as ever.

    Here’s to more rounds and meals in the future, you got this Steve!

  12. Rick Prince says:

    Steve is a pillar of the pinball universe. From the broadway arcade to the first national (World?) tourney and his unwavering support and love for the game, Steve is and will always be a force in pinball. A gentleman/mensch and an example of living /loving at your best.
    Prayers and healing vibes from the Prince family.

  13. Dan Stephney says:

    Ive never met Steve.

    I just started playing pinball seriously 5 years ago…..

    Yet i still know who Mr Epstein is.

    When our club in Fargo opened, i immersed myself in pinball. I watched youtube vids of the the best players in the world. Gagno, Elwin, Kerins, Zach Sharpe 😏 etc…. I also started diving into the history of our silverball friend. And everytime i did, all i would come up with was some dudes named Roger and Steve.

    These are the people we all own a debt of gratitude to. These guys changed our lives. They allowed us to go play a game that we all love and do it legally 🤪, easily, and competitively.

    They allowed a guy like me to go from not playing in 25 yrs to playing against and with the greats.

    This is the beauty of competitive pinball, and the Sharpes and Mr Epstein are to thank.

    All my prayers go to Steve and his family.

    We are with you.

  14. Sarah Lindsay says:

    I almost met Steve at my first pinball tournament (Expo 2015) but he had to leave before our mutual friends could introduce us. It is amazing to think what an impact he has had on my life considering we never actually met.

    I am thankful that Steve and his friends made the effort to develop competitive pinball. The pinball tournament community enriched my brother Dallas’s life, gave him many friends, and expanded his world. In October 2015 I made the trip to that first tournament only hoping to finally meet my brother’s “Expo Friends” but I had such a great experience that I grew a pinball collection and started hosting tournaments. Through those tournaments I have made countless new friends, a number of whom are among my closest friends. I would trust them with my life.

    “Pinball people” are the best part of the pinball experience… and I think there are hundreds or even thousands of us who owe some of our dearest friendships to competitive pinball. It’s like that movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”… if the world of competitive pinball had never been born, just think how many friends we wouldn’t have met and how much emptier our lives would be.

    Many thanks to Steve for his part in giving us this delightfully exasperating sport that has led to so many wonderful friendships.

    May our prayers be heard!
    Hang in there, Steve.

  15. Greg Heim says:

    It is with regret to inform those who do not know that Steve Epstein died yesterday (June 13) at his home surrounded by his family.

    My family first met Steve through his wife Sondi 36 years when my mother got her real estate license. The first second I met Steve, I said “this guy’s a mensch.”

    36 years later, nothing changed. On behalf of my parents, me, my wife and three children, our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and those in the pinball community whom he gave so much of his time, and whose place in its history will never be forgotten.

  16. Will McKinney says:

    Very sad to hear about Mr. Epstein’s passing. I met him at PAPA in NYC in the early 90s and reconnected with him at a recent Pinburgh. He was just as kind and gracious as ever the first time I met him, the last time, and all times in between.

    His contributions to the growth of pinball cannot be understated. After winning the PAPA 3 youth division, my father and I were sent on all all expenses paid trip to Atlanta to promote competitive pinball as PAPA had sponsored a number of satellite tournaments. The trip was a blast and I got to feel like a rock star for the weekend! Steve Epstein made this possible.

    I’ll also never forget the excitement I would have when I found the latest issue of the Flipside in my mailbox. My dad and I would read it cover to cover immediately upon arrival. We learned about PAPA (and competitive pinball, in general) from a story on CNN, but every other pre-Internet pinball tournament we attended was discovered by reading the Flipside.

    Thank you, Mr. Epstein, for being kind, generous, and for tirelessly promoting competitive pinball. Your contributions will never be forgotten.

    I wish I would have found this article sooner. Regardless, I hope this message makes it to his family and can provide some small level of comfort during this difficult time.

  17. Paul Drabik says:

    I met Steve when he owned the Broadway Arcade and went to a few early PAPA tournaments in NYC. When he was publishing Flipside, I was privileged to write the review for Twilight Zone. He visited my home since he lived within 10 miles from me, to pickup the original copy and I remember it fondly.

    Then I got into the repair business over 15 yrs ago and we’d talk on occasion. He would visit our League at Eight on the Break where he met Steve Z and eventually form Modern Pinball in NYC. Is that right SteveZ?

    Anyway, my final memory of him is that he wanted to host a charity tournament at Eight on the Break this spring but the arcade had to close due to the virus. We were to work together on this and was sorry it did not work out. So he was active in supporting pinball to the end. May he rest in peace. My condolences to the family.

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