The kids at school still refused to let the orphan boy into their softball games (baseball was considered too worldly by Seventh Day Adventists; young King thought the game too slow and boring besides), so he went away on his own and learned to pitch.
When a part-Cherokee Indian lad named Meade Kinzer moved to town and brought along a softball, King and Kinzer became so good at pitch and catch that the others had to let them play. "I always knew I had a good arm, but I didn't really know for sure until I got into competition," says Feigner. "From the beginning, all strikeouts." As battery mates, King and Kinzer were not to lose a game from the fourth grade until their third season with The King and His Court—just about 13 years.
While still in junior high. King became the best pitcher for the local college team. By the time he was 16, pitching six nights a week in men's leagues, striking out the side almost every inning and impressing everybody with how obnoxious he could be, a move was on to halt such nonsense. Shortly the Walla Walla leagues banned him from the mound; Myrle King had to play outfield or not play at all.
By this time the youngster had also abandoned school as an impossibility and turned into a confirmed roustabout. He was permanently kicked out of Walla Walla Academy when he bombarded the school with rocks wrapped in putty. Drifting around Portland, Ore. and Seattle, scraping, living in flophouses, sleeping in parked cars, stealing bottles to cash in for refund pennies, walking lunch counter checks. King was a lost soul until he enlisted in the Marines in 1942. One summer later he was almost dead.
The trauma of his youth had been too much for Myrle King. In the Marines he suffered several nervous breakdowns, stumbled through two unhappy marriages, repeatedly tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists, crashing his jeep or maiming himself in some other desperate fashion. In a training flight accident he suffered massive concussions, a caved-in face, split-open scalp and the loss of almost all his teeth. Finally he was committed to the X ward and later released from the service.
"The X ward was the rubber room, a place for quackoes, and I belonged," says Feigner. "I was wacky and wanted to die. I was a pitiful, screwed-up person with no home, no father and no real mother I knew about. I was an uncouth, uneducated, arrogant, belligerent, no-good, miserable excuse for a human being. I was bent on destroying myself. A psychiatrist told me I'd never straighten up until I found my mother. When I did, it completely changed my life."
On the night of Dec. 16, 1945—after a series of nearly miraculous incidents—Myrle King finally found his real mother.
Earlier, in the Walla Walla hall of records, the pitcher had discovered a To Whom It May Concern letter left by a lady named Naomi Feigner stating the fact of her son's birth on March 26, 1925, Feigner's own birth date. Naomi herself had been searching for him all these years, and had even entered the Women's Air Force in hopes of finding her son. Long ago, when they had been living only a few blocks, but several worlds, apart in Walla Walla—he as the impoverished Myrle King, she the wife of a successful grocery-store owner—the son had mowed his mother's lawn and done other errands around her home; at the time neither of them knew about the other.
The aging Mary King and her relatives had been in communication with Naomi's family about the return of the son. An appointment was arranged for Myrle to meet his mother. On that winter night he put on his full dress Marine blues and his perfectly spit-shined shoes to introduce himself to his mother for the first time. He was 20 years old.
"There was snow on the ground and a holiday smell in the air when I went to her door," Feigner recalls. "I could see the Christmas tree up with all the lights on. Then this magnificent-looking silver-haired lady with a black floor-length dress on and a diamond brooch in her hair came to the door. She was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. She opened the door and looked at me. She said, 'So you are my son.' I said, 'Yes, I guess I am.' We cried and bawled and squealed for hours. She didn't know what my favorite dinner was. She had set the table with turkey, chicken, steak, shrimp and every vegetable plus all kinds of desserts. I could have been a vegetarian, and not appreciated any of it, but she wouldn't have cared. It was the first time I knew what a mother's love could be. That morning she had bought a new Buick for me, she had signed over her bank account, she had stocked an entire closet with clothes that fit me. Naomi said if I had come to her when I was eight years old the closet would have been full then, too. She had purchased a full wardrobe of new clothes with different sizes every year I had been gone. I said I didn't need the money, but I could sure use the car.