Joe Manning

Joe Manning, the player who hit the game-winning homerun against the King and His Court, poses for a photo in his softball uniform.

There was a special buzz in the air around Bradford 50 years ago on Sept. 3, 1969, as softball royalty made its way to McKean County. 

Eddie “The King” Feigner, perhaps the greatest men’s softball pitcher to ever live, and his “Court” of three players — a catcher, first baseman and shortstop — came to town to take on a team of local fast-pitch softballers in an exhibition game. 

“The King” had certainly earned his nickname and reputation. His traveling short-handed team had become the softball equivalent to the Harlem Globetrotters — complete with trick pitches and all. 

Some 1,200 spectators came out for the event in Bradford. Tickets for the game cost $1.25 for adults and $.75 for students, according to Era coverage of the event at the time. Proceeds benefited the Bradford Neighborhood Youth Center. 

“It was quite a game, just something to behold,” recalled Bill Manning, one of the Bradford players to take part in the game. “That’s when the King was going around the whole United States for games. It was really something.” 

The locals were considered prohibitive underdogs to the King and His Court. After all, the King racked up 9,743 victories, 141,517 strikeouts, 930 no-hitters and 238 perfect games over the decades-long span the group played. 

In fact, in a celebrity showcase game against some of professional baseball’s best two years prior, Feigner fanned the likes of Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson and Roberto Clemente. 

But on this day in 1969, it was the local underdogs who came out on top. 

Manning’s brother, Joe, hit a leadoff inside the park home run, which would’ve ordinarily been a single, that rolled to the left field fence, and used his speed to safely slide into home for the game’s only run in a 1-0 Bradford win. 

“He got that single, and it just rolled to the fence and they had to go get the ball,” Bill recalled in a phone interview Wednesday. “Joe was fast, and just kept going and came sliding into home.” 

That inside the park homer was buoyed by an impressive three-hit pitching performance by four Bradford pitchers: Bob Woods, George Santora, Jerry Goodman and Larry Holzworth. 

“They were pretty upset that we beat them, because they didn’t lose often,” Manning said. 

Though it was the Bradford City team that won, the King put on quite a show, too. Feigner fanned 16 of Bradford’s batters, and only three of them managed to get hits on the day: Joe Manning, Marv Goodman and Larry Holzworth. Goodman logged a triple. 

Of those 16 strikeouts, three of them came while the King was blindfolded, and another three were while he pitched from second base. 

“It was very challenging to bat against him,” Manning recalled. “I just (foul) tipped one off. He struck just about everybody out. He was really something. He was something to behold.” 

What was the King’s secret? 

It started with a fastball that Manning says definitely reached into the triple digits. That wasn’t all, though. 

“You’d be waiting for that fastball, then he’d throw a change-up,” Manning said. “He was just phenomenal. I bet you it was over 100 mph… You’d find the ball and the umpire had already called a strike.

“We were pretty good players and were used to fast pitchers, but we weren’t used to him. It was quite a feat to beat the King.” 

Feigner, who passed away in 2007, pitched until 2000, when he suffered a stroke. He still traveled with the team for a few years afterward, acting as the emcee for games until the club stopped playing early that decade. 

Of the thousands of games he played, many were against military teams to honor them, as Feigner was a U.S. Marine himself. In addition, many of the games he put on donated considerable proceeds to local charities. 

To learn more about the history of the King and His Court, visit http://www.kingandhiscourt.com/.

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