A team in Waverly, Fla. was the first to spurn the dictates of the ASA. Waverly played Feigner and his gang twice for $200 apiece. Back at home, however, the Court's families were in panic. No finances were forthcoming, the electricity and water were being turned off and the kids were going hungry. The team slept on the beach in St. Petersburg for two nights, then headed to Al Lang Field for what they thought might be their last game. On the way to the park the men encountered a sizable traffic jam involving hundreds of cars which they figured were lined up for a wrestling match or something. Instead, the cars were waiting to get into Al Lang Field to see The King and His Court.
There were 4,000 people there that night; one of them was a promoter for the Canadian National Exhibition who contracted The King to do his stuff in Toronto at the end of the summer. During the 1950 CNE Feigner played for eight days in front of huge crowds and went on to wage a much-publicized scoreless tie and then a 1-0 victory over the Tip Top Tailors, the then world champions of Softball. More than anything else those dates in Canada showered The King with legitimacy, granted him a constituency of softball buffs all over North America and, especially, assured his team's success during the many years to come.
Through the early days the team slept on orange crates and ate dinners of Spam while Feigner had to hock most of his house on returning from the tour each season. It was easy for the Court to grow restive and disenchanted. Nevertheless, The King himself saw light at the end of the tunnel. In 1955 he finally turned a profit of about $5,000. In 1964, after appearing on the CBS Sports Spectacular, Feigner doubled his gate and souvenir booklet prices and also was able to double his guarantee and/or percentage of the take. Today The King earns about $40,000 for his half year's work while the rest of the troupe clears a healthy nickel themselves.
Progress from the early trials can be seen most clearly in Feigner's controversial booklet, which began as a tiny afterthought dominated by dark, blurred and sometimes backward pictures taken with a Brownie, and by an interesting text that in one place read, "Every man on the team has a nickname they call each other. Each can tell when he is being called, yet they call everyone 'Buddy.' If you're anyplace and hear someone call, 'Hey, Buddy,' you will know who is there, probably."
The current booklet has color covers, pitching tips, profiles of the players, advertisements and reprints from favorable columns, in addition to all those pictures of Eddie with his celeb friends. You cannot tell the singers from the comedians without one.
The turnover among members of The King and His Court (22 players over the years) has been light, considering the perils of the road and the fact that it is practically a one-man show. Sadly, the departures have been acrimonious—especially when the original men quit the team. Feigner no longer sees those he went through so many years of school and travel with, and he is not on speaking terms with two of them. The essential problem was that they all owned the team, but Feigner got the glory. One original player-owner, unable to get along with him but nevertheless disinclined to quit, stayed with The King for 12 years. All the while, he never rode in the same car seat with Feigner, and even made deliberate outs and errors to make The King angry.
Feigner has never imposed fines on his men as they do in the big leagues—he just fires them all. Once a championship pitcher who had recently joined the Court broke one of The King's sturdiest rules—never call his motel room before noon—by dialing Feigner at eight in the morning.
"Is the motel burning down?" asked The King.
"No," answered the new player.
"You're fired," said Feigner. And then he hung up the phone.