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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Waitkus shot by deranged fan
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

June 14, 1949

Eddie Waitkus of the Philadelphia Phillies is not a natural, but he's good enough to be leading National League first basemen in balloting for the All-Star Game. However, the former Chicago Cub has the misfortune of being stalked by a deranged fan who is obsessed with him.

Shortly before midnight, Ruth Steinhagen, a 19-year-old typist, lures Waitkus to her hotel room in Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel, where the Phillies are staying. After the 29-year-old bachelor walks past her into the room, Steinhagen shoots him in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle.

Steinhagen, a 6-foot brunette, tells the state attorney, "I'm not really sorry. I'm sorry Eddie has to suffer so. I'm sorry it had to be him. But I had to shoot somebody. Only in that way could I relieve the nervous tension I've been under the last two years. The shooting has relieved that tension."

Steinhagen will be judged insane. Surgery will save Waitkus' life and he will return to baseball next year. He will retire after the 1955 season with a .285 average for his 11-year career. Bernard Malamud will immortalize the shooting incident in his novel, "The Natural," which will later become a successful movie starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs.

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