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Coffin: The King

11/08/12 7:55AM By Howard Coffin
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(Host) While watching the recent, surprisingly short World Series, author, historian and commentator Howard Coffin was reminded of a softball game in a little Texas town, when he and an army post team went up against the best of the best.

(Coffin) His name was Eddie Feigner and he was, quite simply, the best softball pitcher in the world. And on a fall night in 1965 he took the field in a little Texas town with his four man softball team, the King and his Court. And the center fielder for the full team that played him was a private from nearby Fort Hood , part of a team that had gone to this tiny town to play in a fundraising game for some local cause.

Now, I wasn't a bad ballplayer, good fielder, strong arm. As a batter, I walked a lot, not much power, tried to hit it where it was pitched, outside corner to right, inside to left. I did all right. I had played a lot of ball in Vermont . And I thought I'd seen some fastballs. But at Fort Hood I ran up against the best pitcher in the Second Armored Division, Jimmy Farabaugh, from Philadelphia. They called him Fireball and he struck me out three times.

But this night it was Feigner, and on the field with were him were only a catcher, shortstop, and first baseman. That's all he needed, ‘twas said. And I soon saw why. I led off, getting the first look at him. The King's big arm came around and ... I never saw the ball, really none of the three strikes he blazed by me. I never swung. He made Fireball look like slow ball.

Second time up I determined to swing when The King began to throw. I stood on shaking legs, aware that if the pitch came at my head, I had no chance. The arm came round, I swung, and missed that blur down by my belt. Strike one.

Now, Feigner retreated to second base. From there he wound up. I swung, and barely tipped the ball, fouling it to the screen.

Returned to the mound the King looked slightly offended. He double wound up this time and fired. WHAM went the catcher's mitt. My bat never moved. I gladly started for the dugout.

"Hey kid," the catcher hollered. "He's still got the ball." Feigner hadn't thrown it. The catcher had slammed his fist into the mitt.

So I trembled back to the plate for the inevitable STRIKE THREE call.

Oh, our team lost 12 to nothing that night. The catcher, an inner-city guy from Houston, our best player, actually got a hit, our only one. He swung at a pitch Feigner delivered from second base and hit a little roller where there was no second baseman. But that night the King also homered, a soaring shot far into the Lone Star night.

 
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