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Obituaries

Eddie Feigner, 81; showman of fast-pitch softball's 'King and His Court'

February 11, 2007|From the Associated Press

Eddie Feigner, the hard-throwing softball showman who barnstormed for more than 50 years with "The King and His Court" four-man team, has died. He was 81.

Feigner, a former Marine known for his trademark crew cut and bulging right arm, died Friday in Huntsville, Ala., from a respiratory ailment related to dementia, said his wife, Anne Marie Feigner.

With a fastball once clocked at 104 mph, Feigner threw 930 no-hitters, had 238 perfect games and struck out 141,517 batters while playing more than 10,000 games. He was inducted into the National Senior Softball Hall of Fame in 2000.

A stroke suffered in 2000 -- a day after he threw out the first pitch before the women's softball competition in the Sydney Olympics -- ended his playing career at age 75. He left the team for medical reasons last summer.

Feigner, who served in the Marine Corps during World War II, visited more than 300 military installations around the world during his long career, including a stop in Cuba last summer.

Feigner pitched not only from the standard mound, 46 feet from home plate, but also from second base, behind his back, on his knees, between his legs, from center field and blindfolded. In a nationally televised exhibition against major leaguers at Dodger Stadium in 1964, he struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew, Roberto Clemente and Brooks Robinson in order.

Feigner began The King and His Court in 1946 on a dare in his hometown of Walla Walla, Wash. He had just thrown a shutout in his nine-man team's rout of a team from Pendleton, Ore., and the Oregon team challenged him to another game. Backed by just a catcher, first baseman and shortstop, Feigner pitched a perfect game, winning 7-0.

At the height of his popularity, the team played at major league ballparks and he appeared on numerous national television shows, including "The Today Show," "I've Got a Secret" and "What's My Line?" On the "Tonight Show," he pitched blindfolded to Johnny Carson, who loosely held a bat over a home plate. Feigner hit Carson's bat on his first pitch.

"On the field, a master showman, brilliant pitcher, creator of the most popular softball attraction in history," said Jack Knight, a longtime friend and teammate. "And off the field, one tough son of a gun. He was a former Marine; everything was by the numbers. He made millions, and was generous to a fault."

In addition to his wife, Feigner is survived by a son, Eddie Jr., who played with the team for 25 years; daughters Shirley, Carol and Debbie; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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