There is a lot of talk lately about who is the greatest ball player ever. With the Hall of Fame induction ceremony happening this week and Barry Bonds closing in on the all time home run record of Henry Aaron, the question may come up. I even heard one commentator have the audacity to say he knew who was the greatest ever. His pick wouldn't have been in my top 5. My statement to that guy was "define greatest".
And what position is the most important? Pitcher? Get a group of fans together and pick the greatest pitcher of all time. Hoyt Wilhelm, the first reliever admitted to the Hall? Sandy Koufax, probably the greatest of his time but of all time? And what about Cy Young? After all, Major League Baseball named the most prestigious award after him. Don't forget the great Satchel Paige, who played over 5 decades, also served as a philosopher for his quote "don't look back, something might be gaining on you."
It is also a time when the school that encompasses the pasture is celebrating the first ever trip to the Iowa state softball tournament. I am thinking about a ball game.
But I have to admit, the one player who has captured my attention over the years was none of the above. It was a player I saw when I was a teen. He could throw a ball in excess of 100 miles per hour. At age 42, he struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Maury Wills, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson and Harmon Killebrew in the same day. Actually, he struck out them out back to back.
His name was Eddie Feigner. Eddie is best known for his softball team and his traveling show "The King and His Court". Eddie, the King, played along side his wife (who occasionally served as his catcher), a roving fielder and a first baseman. This four person team was virtually unbeatable.
He began pitching in the late 1930's and pitched up to 1998. Just to give you an idea how good this guy was, check out these statistics. He pitched over 10,000 games. He had 930 no-hitters and 238 perfect games. He pitched 1,916 shutouts and struck out over 141,000 batters.
Eddie was known to get a little creative with his pitching so occasionally he pitched from second base, from center field, behind his back, between his legs and from his knees. He was also known to pitch blindfolded and be better than most sighted pitchers. He even pitched to Johnny Carson who held the bat and Feigner hit it. The next pitch was blindfolded as Eddie knocked a cigar out of Carson's mouth.
Eddie passed away earlier this year at the age of 81. Eddie's career ended on a high note in 2000. He was asked to throw out the opening pitch for the softball competition at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. With his faithful wife catching, he threw a 100 mile an hour pitch. She commented that the pitch that broke eight inches, then dropped. Not bad for a 75 year old. The next day, he was hit by a massive stroke and his career was over.
A 100 MPH, breaking ball that cut 8". Hey, Barry Bonds, care to try and hit that pitch?