Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The King and his Court

I think that only once in my life have I literally not believed what I was seeing.  By that I mean that the light was good, my view was unimpaired, there was no trickery involved, but the information that was being transmitted from my eyes to my brain was being rejected as patent nonsense.

It was in the late 1960s, and my dad took a couple of us kids to see a barnstorming softball team called The King and his Court.  The King was a certain Eddie Feigner.

Eddie was a World War II marine who in 1946 started a four man softball team that would travel about beating the pants off of local all star teams.  Eddie pitched and the other three were just there to fill out the squad.

Feigner could do things with a softball that defied belief.  For instance:

He started playing on adult softball teams when he was 9 years old.
He barnstormed from 1946 until a stroke sidelined him in 2000. 
During that stretch he is estimated to have played over 10,000 games, and to have won 9743 of them. 
He played games in all 50 states, 98 foreign countries, and at locations as exotic as Yankee stadium and the Great Wall of China.
While playing against a team of major league baseball players he once struck out five future hall of famers in a row.
He struck out 141,517 batters.  He threw 930 no-hitters and 238 perfect games.
He could throw a softball, underhand, at an estimated 104 miles per hour.

But it wasn't his speed that defied belief.  No, Eddie Feigner appeared to be able to make a softball do whatever he told it to.

Granted I may have been an impressionable lad back in the day, but I saw the King throw strikes pitching behind his back.  I saw him strike batters out while standing not on the pitchers mound, but on second base.  And for his signature finale....he put on a blindfold and threw perfect strikes without being able to even see home plate.  According to his meticulous records, Eddie accomplished this feat 8698 times, not counting the time he knocked a cigar out of Johnny Carson's mouth on the Tonight Show.

Softball has devolved in recent years.  It was once a serious game played with intensity, now it is generally speaking a pleasant way to pass the time while sipping a beer on the bench.  Or out in left field in more casual leagues.

So I think it is fair to say that Eddie Feigner was that rarest of things.  He was the best softball pitcher that ever was.  And more definitively, barring some future cyborg league, he was the best that ever will be.

Here is a newsreel clip of Eddie in his prime.  It does not do him justice.

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