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Lorna Jackson, too, has been a welcome addition to the crew. On being shown inferior motel rooms during an engagement in Bermuda, Lorna, who is British, intoned to the bellman, "Dahling, The King will never accept those accommodations." The hotel management, unaware of a traveling four-man softball team, was so puzzled and upset over the impending arrival of a monarch that a three-room suite on the bay was readied for King Eddie Feigner.
Georgia Feigner, The King's present wife, helps with fan mail, phone calls and scheduling, and endures the road quite admirably for a woman who suffers from extreme claustrophobia. She undergoes terrible hardship in elevators, tunnels and rooms with no windows. But she is accustomed to coping. As a polio-stricken girl, Georgia had to coexist with a nasty brother who took a whip to his sister, locked her in underground potato cellars for days at a time and once draped a dead rattlesnake around her leg braces while she was in bed.
"And then the family wondered why I got so mean," says Georgia.
On any given evening Mrs. Feigner will entertain the Court in Holiday Inn bars by taking a cherry stem into her mouth and twisting it into an honest-to-goodness knot with her tongue—a skill that might very well enable the Feigners to earn gainful employment long after The King's arm has gone dead. "It's real easy," says Georgia. "Here, you try it."
"I have a feeling that no matter how bad that brother of hers treated her," says The King, " Georgia got the best of him."
As one might suspect, there are long days, lonely nights and interminable rides in the station wagon when Eddie Feigner resembles a worn, frazzled old man barely making the next town—Williston, N. Dak.; Claymont, Del.; Berkeley Springs, W. Va. He is scratching out a living, trying to hang on to this wonderful, impossible dream of softball as a big-time sport and of himself as its savior. He is dead-tired, slurs his words, becomes cranky and blames the rest of the team for bad directions or for blowing a play of the night before.
Then suddenly he is at the ball park, on the mound, in front of all those people—his people—and the change erupts. Feigner is a youth again. His eyes glow. His muscles work. He runs. He jumps. His pitches befuddle the batters and delight the crowd. Now The King is on stage. He is doing it, loving it, and maybe at that very moment Eddie Feigner deserves to become as big a celebrity as he wishes.
"Dad really did think the world was going to glorify him when he reached the age of 40," says Eddie Feigner Jr. "Then when it didn't, I think he really got down. He doesn't have to say it. I just know it hurts him not to be recognized more for what he's done. Sometimes I worry that people think he's some clown driving around the country in a wagon with a funny uniform on and throwing softballs behind his back. But he's not. He's the finest player in the history of this game, and nobody cares."
The King himself often speaks on this question of celebrity. "Let me tell you something," he says. " Bob Richards and I made appearances on the same night in Flint, Mich. a few years ago, and we kidded each other about who would draw more people. I got 4,000 and he got 800. Bob Richards, the Wheaties man. The pole vaulter, you know. We went to the Detroit airport together. Baggage handlers, porters, everybody came up to shake my hand. They ignored Bob Richards. He said he was really impressed, and he was. It's hard for me to sit here and say this, but I'm the Messiah in Detroit. I could get elected mayor.
"Oh, look," he says, "I know I'll never be a big-timer because I'm not in an organized, glamorous, moneymaking operation. Just softball. Who cares about softball? I want to start a pro softball league. I want to run a softball pitching school. But would it matter? Who cares? I'm a pip-squeak because I'm caught in a nothing game. It's like being champion nose-blower. If I was this good in a recognized sport I'd have cars, all kinds of homes, a day in my honor, a movie. A movie of my life should be made, you know. Bob Mitchum could play me—I know him just well enough to call him Bob. Now there's a real man's man. I met him in Canada. Hell of a guy.