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'The King and His Court' to finish where it began

WALLA WALLA -- Who knew?

Many of us didn't. But when Eddie Feigner passed away in 2007, it was assumed that the legendary King And His Court travelling softball show was done.

That assumption isn't correct.

The show still went on -- for a while anyway, because Feigner quit playing in 2000, according to Steve Beden, executive director of the King & His Court.

But its 65-year history ends tonight and in the place where it all started -- Walla Walla.

"The dynamics of the environment out there calls for it," Beden said. "It's time to put it to bed. And the way to do it is the right way, in Walla Walla."

Beden said the group has been lining up its ending for the last two years.

In the 2011 calendar year, the King & His Court scheduled 100 games -- the last 100 games.

Friday night, the guys were in Wenatchee for game No. 99.

At 7:05 p.m. tonight, Borleske Stadium will host No. 100.

"The mayor in Walla Walla has a special proclamation," Beden said. "Mike Meilicke, one of the original players, will be there. There are probably at least a half-dozen former players coming in from around the country. There will be other surprises."

Feigner, a member of the Central Washington Sports Hall of Fame, was a gun-for-hire pitcher in the fastpitch softball hotbed that was Richland in the 1940s.

In 1946, Feigner and his regular team easily won a game in Pendleton when he got into an argument with the other team.

Feigner said he'd play them the next time with just a catcher, but he was afraid they'd just walk them both.

The other team's manager said to bring a shortstop and first baseman, too, and the King And His Court was born.

Since then, the barnstorming numbers have been staggering -- 4,405 cities around the world, 104 countries, a total of 4,100,000 miles of travelling.

By Beden's estimation, there have been 43 players to don the red, white and blue uniforms the Court uses over the years.

Tonight's final Court lineup?

Pitcher Rich Hoppes -- who spent 30 years with the Court -- catcher Charlie Dobbins, first baseman Mike Branchaud, and shortstop Ron Davenport.

They'll go up against a lineup representing the Walla Walla Sweets of the West Coast Collegiate summer baseball league.

That includes Jeff Cirillo, a former major leaguer and part owner of the Sweets; Sweets manager J.C. Biagi and his assistant coaches, Mark Michaud, Cesar Lopez and Dave Meliah; Sweets officials Zachary Fraser and Jordan Paden; and current softball standouts Ashlyn Lyons (DeSales) and Alyson Ambler (Walla Walla).