Thursday, May 9, 2013


Terry Cannon and Buddy Kilchesty
in earlier days...
The membership of the Baseball Reliquary, that sun-dappled anti-institution whose two head honchoes take turns impersonating Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson (whose stats you will not be able to locate over at Forman et fils), has spoken.

Ballot #15 in the Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals election process has been collectively cast, and individually counted (no chads--or Chads, for that matter--were found anywhere in the greater metropolitan area of Pasadena...) and the results are in.

We'll cover each new Eternal individually here over the next few days.

We present in reverse order of the popular vote (the top three vote-getters get in: there are now 45 members). #3 in the voting, but #1 on the softball field for more than twice as long as the effective life of the Berlin Wall, is the incomparable Eddie Feigner (1925-2007), a virtually unhittable pitcher who combined blazing speed with trick pitches to compile a winning percentage of over .900 (to be exact, .901) in more than a half-century of barnstorming across America (and around the world).

Eddie "The King" Feigner in action.
What made the show more electrifying was that Feigner, billed as "The King and His Court," would field a four-man team--a pitcher, a catcher, a first baseman and a shortstop--against an opponent fielding the full complement of nine players. A fastball clocked at 104mph, thrown from softball distances (46 feet), was more than enough to overcome the personnel disadvantage.

Statisticians could, and still can, revel in the extremity created by a numerical compilation of "the King's" feats. Stats compiled through 1998 indicate that Feigner struck out more than 15 batters per nine innings in over eleven thousand games. Pitching blindfolded (!!), he struck out more than 50% of the batters he faced (52.4%, to be exact)...which works out to a little over 14 batters per nine innings. In the immortal words of Pepe le Pew: incroyable!

Naturally, with an act this extreme, Feigner would over time become a bit too caught up in the trappings of Americana, veering toward a representation that tilted toward the flag-waver contingent. It can be explained (without being condoned) by the fact that something clearly akin to a divine source created Eddie Feigner's right arm and made it a hundred times more indestructible than Nolan Ryan's. With an enduring gift of that nature, God would, of necessity, be writ large. And a large dollop of faith would come in handy when one's life is spent so relentlessly on the road.

But none of that entered into the experience of seeing the King (and his Court) in person. The 1959 promo video (above) provides a solid glimpse of that. It was (and still is) a kind of mind-numbing experience.

Curry Kirkpatrick's classic profile of Eddie Feigner, written more than forty years ago and published in Sports Illustrated (8/21/72), is probably still the best place to get the flavor of the man. It's clear even then that he was larger than life, and that in the sheer uniqueness of his extremity he was pre-destined to be a Shrine of the Eternals inductee.

(The formal induction ceremony for the 15th class of the Shrine of the Eternals will be held in Pasadena on July 21st. There will be free cookies, and three more "front-door" inductees than will be the case in Cooperstown the following week.)