King still holds court, but now he plays the jester

Pitcher Eddie "The King" Feigner has ruled the softball world for decades by firing blazing fastballs by some the game's greatest hitters.

Published February 25, 2005

DUNEDIN - In 1950, when The King and His Court came to play at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, they were broke.

With no money for a hotel, the four-man celebrity softball team slept on the beach.

Now 55 years later, Eddie Feigner and his players are back in the Tampa Bay area on what could be one of their last tours.

With a new book out and decades of games behind them, they were more than able to book a few rooms near the marina.

At 7 p.m. today at nearby Knology Park, the King and His Court will play the Sacred Sluggers, made up of a few priests and some local celebrities including Denis Phillips, chief meteorologist for WFTS Channel 28, and Dave Mann, a former professional baseball player and TV narrator.

Feigner will sign copies of his book, From An Orphan To A King!

Proceeds from the gate benefit Kimberly Home, a pregnancy center in Clearwater.

If you're 40 or older, you might recall Feigner traveling the country playing exhibition games at Yankee Stadium and other parks.

For 60 years, he has been proving softball is no sissy game.

With a fast-pitch once clocked at 104 miles per hour, he struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente in a 1967 exhibition game.

During winter sports shows, he fanned Mickey Mantle more than 300 times.

The team was so good and so entertaining, Sports Illustrated in 1999 named it one of its top ten favorite teams of the 20th century.

The shows were much like those put on by the Harlem Globetrotters, with Feigner pitching from second base, through his legs or while blindfolded.

Now 79, Feigner has played more than 14,000 games.

He doesn't do it much anymore. His body has been wracked by two strokes and two heart attacks. He has arthritis in his knees and is blind in one eye.

"If you hit a ball straight back to me, I couldn't field it," he said.

So he emcees the show instead.

The 2005 Court is made up of Rich Hoppe, the pitcher, Dave Booth, the catcher, Jack Knight, shortstop and Bob Hale who plays various positions.

Feigner's wife, Anne Marie, plays first base and manages the team.

One reason the King might have accepted the offer to raise money for Kimberly Home is because he can relate to the work they do there.

As a baby, he was abandoned at the back door of a hospital in Walla Walla, Wash.

"We may not raise a million dollars for the Kimberly Home," said Anne Marie Feigner. "But we make sure everybody has a good time."

Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com


The King and his Court will play the Sacred Sluggers at 7 p.m. tonight at Knology Park, 311 Douglas Ave., Dunedin. Tickets are $12 for adults, $4 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for kids 5 and younger. Proceeds benefit Kimberly Home, a pregnancy center in Clearwater.