Our man Scott Munn compiles a regular feature for the Tuesday Oklahoman in which he spotlights a variety of people with sporting ties who have died. This week, the list of obits included Travis Raper:
“Travis Raper, 78, was a longtime fast-pitch softball player. He was inducted into the Oklahoma City Metro Softball Hall of Fame in 1984 after pitching for Motiff Homes, Masterbilt Motors and the Oklahoma City Fire Department. The retired fire captain was a standout athlete at Mustang High School in the 1950s.”
A long-time reader, Greg Davis, a retired military man who grew up in OKC and now lives in Florida, sent the following response:
“I might have been about 10, estimate about 1962, when my father came home early and took me to a fast-pitch softball game at the Memorial Park facility (I seem to remember it was east of Agnew on the south side of road before you hit Cowtown), just to get out of the house so he could have a Pall Mall or two (since he could not smoke the evil cigarettes in the house).
“I remember because it was not for free, but there was a person who took a $1 for each person who entered the field. In any event, Eddie Feigner of the ‘King and his Court’ fame played an exhibition against Masterbilt Motors, the OKC softball powerhouse. They played a fast-pitch softball game which seemed like it took forever, nearly three hour for a softball game that normally goes only 60-75 minutes. Went 15 innings, I believe.
“Masterbilt Motors won 1-0. Travis Raper pitched. He was dynamite! He beat Eddie Feigner who, at the time, was acknowledged to be the greatest softball pitcher in the world! Of course, Eddie Feigner pitched with only three other people in the field, but nonetheless this guy Raper was pretty darn good. The King and his Court rarely lost…very rarely.
“The ‘King and his Court’, the OKC fire guys, and a few of the fans/friends proceeded out to the parking lot where the Coleman coolers were broken out and there was a mass party of tall boy Coors gold (when Coors was the absolute finest beer made in the world) and ice cold Cokes in 6-ounc glass bottles. Nobody took money for anything. Don’t know who paid for it, but there were even a couple of OKC’s finest having a cold one (or two). After I got to meet Eddie Feigner and Mr. Raper, Dad and I proceeded, if I remember, to Cattlemen’s for a dinner steak and baked potato with fried okra.
“It had been a fine summer evening in OKC.
“Pass this on to Scott Munn. A great has passed from the scene. The conqueror of Eddie Feigner.”
Awhile later, Greg sent me more info.
“And the best part of the show put on by Feigner prior to playing seriously, he would pitch warm ups blindfolded and strike out batters. Uncanny control and muscle memory. He also pitched from second base and was unbelievable from that distance also. I think this game with Masterbilt was almost some sort of afterthought after the show performance. Feigner and his group of three liked to take on all comers from the towns and cities where they would play.
“Let’s put it this way. Feigner on the mound, pitching normally in game conditions, contrast with Keilani (who is absolutely stifling with speed), Feigner’s array of pitches could hardly be seen. No gun to measure speed, but let me put it this way. I have seen Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale go head to head in old Busch Stadium (might have been Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis), throwing from the old elevated mound, and Feigner’s softball heater compared very favorably.
“This Travis Raper fellow, real close, real close, but for him, softball was a sideline, about like watching some scratch golfer from a local public course going head to head with Tiger Woods and holding his own.”
Well, you guys know I’m a sucker stories like this. Old-time OKC stuff. Instead of passing it on just to the Munnster, I thought I’d pass it on to all.
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