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Skee-ball: Born in South Jersey and Still Rolling Strong a Century Later

Early Skee-Ball Alley
Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball

It’s nearly impossible to find a New Jersey arcade without Skee-ball.

That may have something to do with the classic game’s roots. Revealed in a newly-published book by a couple from California, the Garden State played a major role in the creation of Skee-ball and its success, which is making a rebound 108 years after its birth.

The idea for “Seeking Redemption: The Real Story of the Beautiful Game of Skee-Ball” came to Thaddeus Cooper, a New Jersey native, while playing the ball-in-hole game on his iPhone. Sitting in the kitchen with his wife and co-author, Kevin Kreitman, he thought about making a quick YouTube video on the history of the game.

But after some research, he realized the story went much deeper than most would think. Five years later, the couple had finished the research portion of the process and was ready to begin writing.

Thaddeus Cooper And Kevin Kreitman
Thaddeus Cooper And Kevin Kreitman (Argun Tekant)

“The game was invented by Joseph Fourestier Simpson, who was a resident of Vineland, New Jersey,” Cooper told Townsquare Media. “And the game was originally fielded in the shore towns of Wildwood and Atlantic City.”

The first third of the book covers the struggles and triumphs of Simpson’s Skee-ball journey. Simpson nearly shut down his company in 1912, Kreitman said, but sold it to Princeton graduate and avid Skee-ball player Jonathan Dickinson Estes, who ended up truly popularizing the game.

The remainder of the book examines Skee-ball’s resilience: it survived two world wars, various economic downturns and legal wrangling in the decades to follow.

“Skee-ball is still really popular, and it’s just amazing because it’s 108 years old,” Kreitman said. “And we’re really seeing a resurgence.”

As proof of Skee-ball’s continued popularity, the couple pointed to multiple Skee-ball leagues across the country, along with the wildly successful smartphone app.

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