THE REAL "NATURAL"
This is the sad-but-true story of Eddie Waitkus, the inspiration for The Natural starring Robert Redford. Alas, what follows doesn’t have a happy Hollywood ending.
1) Eddie Waitkus was both a decorated WWII veteran and an All-Star first baseman who played for the Cubs, the Phillies and the Orioles.
a young, beautiful and very looney fan in a Chicago hotel in 1949.
3) She was 19-year-old Ruth Ann Steinhagen. She became obsessed with Eddie when he played for her hometown Cubs. She was furious when he was traded to the Phillies and plotted to destroy him when he returned to Chicago with his new team.
4) Ruth Ann may have been crazy but she wasn’t dumb. She did her homework, checking into the hotel where the Phillies stayed in Chicago and using the name of one of Eddie’s real-life girlfriends.
5) She went to Wrigley Field for the Cub/Phillies game, then returned to the hotel she and Eddie “shared” for a few drinks. She wrote him a note, signed it with her alias, and paid a bellboy $5 to deliver it while she went up to her room. Eddie showed up at her door, hoping for romance.
6) Instead he got a single shotgun blast to the chest. Ruth Ann immediately called the front desk and told the clerk, “I just shot Eddie Waitkus.” If she hadn’t reported her own crime so quickly, he probably would have bled to death.
7) The bullet pierced his lung and lodged between his heart and spine. Because of the location, surgeons decided it was safest to leave the bullet where it was.
8) The next day, after several hours on the operating table, Eddie awoke in his hospital room to police officers and Ruth Ann. He identified her to the authorities with one word, “Shooter.” He later added that he had never met her before and had no idea why she would shoot him.
9) Eddie required four more surgeries and months of rehabilitation in Clearwater, Florida. He heroically returned to the Phillies in 1950 and hit .284 in Philadelphia’s pennant-winning effort.
10) In 1951, Eddie married and started a family that would grow to include a son and daughter.
11) Ruth Ann Steinhagen was tried and found “not guilty” due to insanity. She was committed to a state hospital, underwent shock treatments, and was judged sane and released in 1952.
12) After his career ended in 1955, Eddie suffered through divorce and battled alcoholism. He supported himself by working with kids at Ted Williams’ baseball camp each summer. He often collected unemployment during the winter months.
13) He died in a veterans’ hospital in 1972 at the age of 53. His son blames the bullet that remained in his body for all those years for his father’s lung cancer, saying, "Steinhagen was more successful than she thought.”
PS Thanks to Harlekwin for the KiTTy Banner.
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