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The rest of the team consists of Doug Anderson, a 6'4", 250-pound catcher and nephew of Cincinnati Red Manager Sparky Anderson, who claims he hit 79 home runs last season; Floyd Berger, who played a little football at VPI and who is currently Anderson's left-handed catching substitute; Feigner's son Eddie Jr. (or "J.R." as he is called by those who respect his abhorrence of the name Junior), who plays shortstop; and Gary (Hawk) West, a 30-year-old Californian who fills in everywhere on the field—especially at short when Junior, uh, J.R., is in class at San Jacinto ( Calif.) Junior College.
The genuine show in Dade City as everywhere else, however, is Eddie Feigner Sr. Step right up. Watch The King pick off a runner behind his back. Watch him hit a triple with a 22-inch bat. Listen to his monologue and watch him pitch blindfolded. At the same time all this is going on, don't miss the oldtime barnstorming sight of the other uniformed members of the team making their way through the aisles to peddle The King and His Court souvenir booklets (50�) with 38 different pictures of The King himself, plus shots of every celebrity imaginable, from Jerry Lewis to Elder Fagal of the Faith for Today TV program.
Members of the Court claim that last year one irate gentleman, obviously disappointed in his copy, accosted The King from behind the first base dugout with, "Feigner, you idiot! You're the worst egotist I've ever seen in my life!"
The King denies this. "It's my booklet. We've sold 20,000 of them," he says. "But nobody ever said that to my face. If they did, they'd get decked right then and there. I've worked long and hard for what I've got, and the road has been tough. I won't begrudge myself a booklet. If they don't like it, they know what they can do with it."
Before he became the best pitcher in soft-ball. Eddie Feigner drove trucks and cabs and buses and trolleys. He operated cranes, worked docks, played saxophone, kept cost-accounting books, dug ditches, conducted streetcars, washed dishes and practiced stand-up comedy. He waited tables, hustled used cars, sold vacuum cleaners, installed furnaces, cut asparagus, handled the public-address system at Cypress Gardens, picked prunes, introduced strippers, pumped gas, sang tenor at funerals, fixed air conditioners, hawked vitamin pills door-to-door, sold burlesque tickets, peddled lumber, wrote sports, hammered nails and became an expert gourmet cook while working under a man Feigner refers to with suitable reverence as "the famous Boothby of the Skyview Grill at the Portland airport."
In addition to this, poverty, tragedy and just plain weird doings stalked Feigner in his early years to such an extent that the results easily could fill the time slots of several daytime television serials.
Facts are hazy, but as near as Feigner can piece it together, he was immediately separated from his unwed mother on that March day in 1925 when he was born in Walla Walla. About the same time Mary King, a 50-year-old woman who had already raised four sons, lost her own change-of-life baby shortly after delivery. She readily accepted the other infant, the adoption was accomplished without papers and the baby was christened Myrle Vernon King. It was five years later that little Myrle learned of his heritage.
A staunch Seventh Day Adventist who had crossed the country in a wagon train as a young girl, Mrs. King raised the new child alone after her husband deserted her at the height of the Depression. Through his first 16 years, Myrle King ate nothing but powdered eggs, milk and potatoes. He was raised according to the strict tenets of the church. He was denied movies and radio, newspapers and candy bars. He was not allowed to go to a birthday party or a dance. Until he was almost 15, he did not know that major league baseball or hamburgers existed.
When he was still a boy at his church-affiliated school the other kids taunted King ("You little bastard," "sweet orphan sucker") and either shunned him or beat him up. "They used to fishpond me every day," says Feigner. "It wasn't a fun afternoon unless they had thrown the little bastard King into the fishpond and whipped up on him. Then another orphan moved in, Eddie Colts, and he could fight. He was my best friend, and none of them touched me after that or they had to mess with Eddie Colts. He was a great fighter, fast, and he could have taken on Sugar Ray if he had lived."
Eddie Colts died at 16 in what Feigner remembers as "a tragic logging accident" (in reality he was knifed by a lumberjack in a fight over a girl), but he was to live on among The King and His Court; Myrle King later borrowed his own first name from Eddie Colts.