By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
1987 was a special year for softball players and fans in Stevens Point. Softball pitching legend Eddie “King” Feigner and his three-man “court” graced the Iverson Park diamond as they took on a full team of area celebrities and talented players.
It is believed that Mike Disher, Randy Wievel, and Jim Moe of the Stevens Point Softball Association had invited the “King and his Court” to participate in the amazing event.
Eddie Feigner is widely recognized as the greatest softball pitcher who ever lived. The “King” was born in 1925 in Walla Walla, Wash. He started pitching fast-pitch softball in the late 1940’s and hung it up in 2000. His pitching career lasted over 50 years, and he was still throwing blazing pitches past bewildered batters at age 75.
Feigner and his three-man team always went up against an opponent who had a full lineup. The late “King” liked to tell crowds, “The only reason we have four players is because we need someone to bat when we get the bases loaded.”
How great was Eddie? Well, he and his men were like the Harlem Globetrotters of softball. They played against teams in a hundred countries. Eddie pitched in over 10,000 fast-pitch softball games. He threw 238 perfect games and 930 no-hitters.
In a well-documented 1967 celebrity charity softball game, Feigner struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Roberto Clemente, , Maury Wills, and Harmon Killebrew, all in a row. Those were some of the best hitters in major league history, and most of them are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 30 years since the King and his Court entertained and dazzled the overflow crowd at Iverson Park. Joe Cyran of Sentry and the late Bruce Berry, two outstanding umpires in their day, were the “men in blue” for the historic occasion.
“Bruce had the plate, and I umped first base. I didn’t have to make many calls when the locals were batting,” Cyran recalled. “I still remember when Terry Porter came up to bat. Eddie fired in two pitches and Terry didn’t have a clue up there. It was no contest. Eddie was striking out just about everybody.”
Then, he said, Feigner stepped off the mound and yelled to Terry, “Look son, just hold the bat over the plate and I’ll hit it.”
So Porter held his bat over the plate and Eddie hit it with his next pitch. It brought down the house.
Some of the many fans in the stands included Mike Koback, Paulo Pavelski, Bruce Dehlinger, Keith LaGraves, Lance Doering, and Mike Kaminski and his dad “Peapod”. Doering said, “It was hilarious when Terry Porter batted (Porter had been a star basketball player on the UWSP Pointers. He went on to have an outstanding 17-year career in the NBA and also was the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.).
“It was simply an awesome display of talent,” Kaminski said.
Pavelski offered: “I was thinking of asking Eddie to pitch for us in the S. Pete’s Tournament.”
When Feigner wasn’t throwing strikes with blinding speed, the King and his Court liked to clown around a lot. At the time, Eddie said, “It was all in fun. We had nothing but respect for every player who played against us.”
Eddie also enjoyed throwing pitches behind his back, between the legs, blindfolded, and from second base. His team yukked it up a lot and displayed several bags of tricks.
And the running jokes just kept on coming. Early in the game, the Court’s first baseman called time and yelled, “Hey Eddie!”
Feigner shouted back, “What?”
The first baseman yelled, “One of their outfielder’s wife said you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
Eddie shouted, “Oh yeah? Is she here?”
The first baseman pointed to the stands and shouted, “Yeah! She’s sitting in the stands behind home plate. And his girlfriend is over there by the dugout!”
“Geez, it really was an honor to ump in that game,” Cyran recalled. “The late Bruce Berry was terrific behind the plate. I remember when one guy came up to bat for the local team. Eddie fired in two strikes that the batter missed by a yard. Then Eddie wound up and blazed in another one. It made a loud sound in the catcher’s mitt and Bruce yelled, ‘strike three,’ the batter walked back to the dugout in total shock. Then Eddie turned to the crowd and showed the ball. He never actually pitched it; the crowd went bananas. The batter ran back to Bruce and yelled, ‘Are you sure that was a strike? I never even saw it,’ Berry said, ‘Neither did I, but it sounded like a strike.’”
What a fun night at Iverson. And perhaps the happiest guy in the crowded ballpark was Scottie Krueger, a local radio legend.
Scottie explained: “I came to bat and actually hit a double. Lined one right down the left field foul line! It was the highlight of my career, and the crowd exploded.”
Krueger also made a terrific play at second base when he speared a wicked one-hopper and threw the dude out at first.
“He wasn’t too happy about it,” Krueger added.
As mentioned earlier, the King and his Court brought their talents to many ball diamonds.
Mike Fink said he saw them play in Oklahoma. “They were awesome,” he declared.
Stevens Point’s Pat O’Donnell, a member of the Moore Barn “Wall of Fame”, said he struck out against Eddie in Iron Mountain, Mich.
“He was pitching from second base,” O’Donnell said.
Krueger was reminded that he hit his double off of the 63-year-old Feigner who also pitched the ball from second base.
“Doesn’t matter.,” Krueger said. “Hardly anyone else even hit the ball.”
Jack Ellenz doesn’t remember the exact year, but he said he also saw the King and his Court play against some top area players in Junction City.
Ellenz said, “Man, that Junction City team was loaded with talent. They gave Eddie a good run for their money.”
“Our Junction guys were absolutely honored to play against the King,” Diane Strojny recalled. “I know that we had Nate Carpenter at pitcher, Mike Brillowski at catcher, Babe Sroda was at first, Rich Strojny was at third, and Tony Hirzy was the shortstop. We only lost 6-5.” (For the record, those guys were all area softball legends in their own right back in the day.)
Rick “Keebler” Hughes noted that he was the batboy for the Junction City game.
“It was something I’ll never forget,” he said. “The autographed game ball they gave me is something I’ll cherish forever.”
It’s doubtful that anyone who was in the crowd or on the field for those charity games at Iverson Park and Junction City will ever forget the time when Eddie Feigner and the boys came to play. A splash of local history that is gone forever.