"My figure-eight windmill with quarter-speed outraise pitch?" says Feigner. "Forget it. Nobody hits it. I have a whirligig with a cross-fire in-drop at three-quarter speed. Forget it, too. School's out. I can't throw hard every day anymore, but it doesn't matter. If I ever bear down, the teams we play don't have a chance in hell. I still can throw faster than anybody going. If I could have pitched with three days' rest all my life, I wouldn't have lost 10 games yet.
"I have to play with a four-man team. If I got nine together, the game would be a farce. Four men, remember. Four men against nine. And we win nine times out of 10. Amazing. It really is. You can bet that if the bottom line of our contract read we don't get paid if we lose, we'd never lose. One of the newspaper boys said it best many years ago. Quite frankly, it is the only time the accurate story ever came out in public about The King and His Court. He said Feigner could play with the plumber, the maid and grease monkey and still win.
"It's hard for me to sit here and say this, but it's illogical and amazing how many guys join my ball club who think I'm great, then, after playing for a while with The King, say, 'I knew you were great, but I never dreamed you were this great.' Let me tell you one thing. Put this in there. My team is the greatest story in sports of the last quarter century. I'm supposed to donate my arm to science when I die. They asked me. Can you imagine that? My arm never ceases to amaze even me."
To appreciate how close Eddie Feigner approaches the truth in his lengthy, practically everyday soliloquies into the life and times of The King and His Court it would be necessary to spend a week with his hearty band—drinking, eating, riding the country roads, staying up all night, sitting in the dugouts and watching a number of their combination game-shows. Since such an expedition is nearly impossible for any human on the near side of good health and accepted sanity to endure, it is certainly enough to encounter The King just once, say during a game-show in Dade City, Fla.
April is the spring training month for the Court. It is when Feigner, arriving from his home in Fallbrook, Calif., gathers with his men in the South to work the kinks out during contests up and down Florida, as well as in Cullman, Ala.; Laurel, Miss.; Lamarque, Texas; and any other Southern part of heaven that a road has been built to.
On this particular day The King and His Court wake up at four a.m. after a game in Key West and drive their station wagon 300 miles through the picturesque Keys to the Winter Haven area.
The King keeps saying the Keys are picturesque, but the Court can't quite make them out in the dark. Two nights before, the team played Gainesville up there in the panhandle, then got in the station wagon and drove all the way down to Key West, arriving at seven a.m. After last night's games they got three hours' sleep before mounting up to go north again. This then is the second time within the past 24 hours the Court has missed the picturesque Keys. It is a safe bet the Court does not care.
Twenty-seven years on the road have taught him some things about scheduling, Eddie Feigner is saying. For instance: to play Florida early in the spring when the Easter tourists are still around. To finish in the mid-East by mid-May before the rain comes. To stay out of Texas at tornado time. To go to Canada in mid-June as summer breaks over the West. To play the big gates of St. Paul and Detroit and Long Island in July and August. To hit South Bend and Ann Arbor while the university summer sessions are on. To go inland from the East Coast by the third week of August in order to escape the stirring hurricanes. To come West in September but not buck high school football. To play midweek games in the fall and play them an hour earlier so that the kids get to bed on school nights and mom and dad don't miss the new TV shows. There are other factors in scheduling, of course. As The King says, "The single most important thing to remember on the road is bowel movement."
Riding up from Key West that morning, The King remembered to start at an ungodly hour in order to beat the bumper-to-bumper traffic of fishermen packing the bridges. Despite the time of day, he drives the wagon the way he almost always does. Feigner's right arm is propped on a pillow to ward off stiffness, fatigue, and—not incidentally—to protect the livelihood of every one of the automobile's occupants. Feigner's neck is swathed in toweling for warmth and as a covering against the air conditioning as well as any other breeze that might happen in. Feigner's silver-black hair bristles straight up in the front, introducing one of the very last—John Unitas and Gene Shue rest in peace—standup brush cuts in sports. Feigner's lips surround a horrible-looking rum-flavored tobacco item known as a Wolf Brothers Crook. The King says he does not smoke or chew or drink much, but he does gnaw on at least two packages of these awful "crooks" a day, enabling him, in reality, to get much of the effects of smoking, drinking and chewing at the same time. Jars of peanut butter and mayonnaise for sandwiches are not far from the driver's side and neither are fresh strawberries. The King loves his strawberries. The car radio is not on; the car radio is never on. The King hates pop music.
It is hardly beside the point that in the next two days The King and His Court will wait around all day in Tampa, only to get rained out of a little park in Ybor City where 25 people will show up; will drive from nine Saturday night until noon the next Sunday—15 hours straight, all night long—to play an afternoon date in Baton Rouge, then will collapse in their rooms when no saloon can be found open that evening.