Eddie Feigner is the greatest softball pitcher of all time.
Born in Walla Walla, Washington—in the southwest region of the state along the Oregon border—on March 25, 1925, he was abandoned as a child and named Myrle King by his adoptive parents. By nine he was pitching for a nine-man softball team and, after being kicked out of high school for unruly behavior, joined the U.S. Marine Corps to serve in World War II. During the military application process, he discovered details of his birth, learning that he had worked mowing the lawn of his birthmother, who lived nearby. Feigner [pronounced FAY-ner] decided to take her last name along with the first name of a friend. After suffering a nervous breakdown during the war, Feigner was discharged and returned to Washington, playing softball with a team that traveled the Pacific Northwest. In 1946, after beating an Oregon team 33-0, he responded to a taunt by saying, “I would play you with only my catcher.” With an added shortstop and first baseman, Feigner began his barnstorming tours of the U.S.
In 1950, Feigner dubbed his team “The King and His Court” and they became the Harlem Globetrotters of softball, complete with red, white and blue uniforms. The muscular Feigner, who always wore a flattop haircut, often arrived at the pitcher’s mound in a red Cadillac convertible. Playing against local all-star teams, Feigner and his four-man team were nearly unbeatable, winning 95 percent of their games. They played everywhere, including rodeo arenas, cow pastures, military bases, cemeteries and race tracks—and once played on an oil rig. The King pitched from his knees, behind his back and between his legs. During his 55 year career, Feigner struck out 8,698 batters while pitching blindfolded. A regulation softball mound is 46 feet from home plate, but the King occasionally pitched from second base or centerfield. At his peak, Feigner threw a softball harder than any major league pitcher has thrown a baseball—including Sandy Koufax [Daily Dose, January 19] and Walter Johnson [Daily Dose, August 7]. The King’s underhanded fastball was once timed at 104 miles per hour and his curveball dipped 18 inches. In an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium in February 1967, Feigner struck out Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Willie McCovey [Daily Dose, July 29], Maury Wills and Harmon Killebrew—six of the top players in baseball history—in succession. During his prime in the 1960s, the “Clown Prince of Softball” earned $100,000 per month at a time when the best players in baseball made that much in a year. Feigner often appeared on television and once knocked a cigar out of Johnny Carson’s mouth with a pitch—while wearing a blindfold. At age 56, he beat a nine-man team—including several major league players—in front of 16,000 fans at the Silverdome outside Detroit.
The King and His Court toured the world for 55 years, playing everywhere from Yankee Stadium to the Great Wall of China. They played in all 50 states, visited over 100 countries and logged more than four million miles while playing in front of 200 million people. In 2002, ESPN.com listed Feigner as one of the ten greatest pitchers of all time and Sports Illustrated ranked The King and His Court the eighth greatest team of the 20th century. “I’m a pipsqueak because I’m caught in a nothing game,” said Feigner. “It’s like being a world champion nose blower.” Eddie Feigner won 9,743 games, struck out 141,517 batters, tossed 930 no-hitters and hurled 238 perfect games. He could also hit, once slugging 83 home runs in a 250-game season. Sports Illustrated called Mr. Feigner “the most underrated athlete of all time.” The King threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of the women’s Olympic softball tournament at the Sydney Games in 2000. He suffered a stroke the following day—ending his career at age 75. Seven years later, Mr. Feigner died of a respiratory ailment.
Asked why the team had four members, Feigner answered that they couldn’t play with three: if all three got on base, there would be no one available to come to bat.– Author Unknown