Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday School: History Lesson 6

Eddie Waitkus was a first baseman with our Phillies from 1949-1953, then again in 1955. Waitkus was a slick fielder who is best remembered for being shot by a female fan in his Chicago hotel. Waitkus was also the basis for the novel The Natural, that was later made into a major motion picture starring Robert Redford.

Waitkus was signed as an amateur free agent by the Cubs in 1939. He played with the Cubs over parts of 4 seasons, after which he was traded to the Phillies on December 14th, 1948.

Eddie was not a great offensive contributor, as his best season saw him bat .295, while hitting 7 homers and driving in 44 runs. That didn't stop Cubs fan Ruth Ann Steinhagen from developing a dangerous infatuation for Waitkus. During his seasons with the Cubs, Steinhagen's interest in the player was kept in check, but once he was traded to Philadelphia, her infatuation became obsession and she sought to attack Waitkus. In June 1949, with the Phillies in Chicago for a series, Steinhagen checked into the Phillies' hotel under a name of a former classmate of Waitkus, and left a note for him, telling Waitkus that she needed to see him. When Waitkus arrived at her room, Steinhagen shot him in the abdomen with a .22 caliber rifle. She then calmly phoned the front desk for help. Waitkus required 4 surgeries to remove the bullet and repair the damage caused from the gunshot. Waitkus was near death multiple times and he missed the remainder of the season.

Following his recovery, Eddie Waitkus recovered and played three more seasons as our Phillies' starting first baseman. Ruth Ann Steinhagen never stood criminal trial, but was instead confined to a mental institution for only 3 years, before being declared cured and released.

In March 1954, the Orioles purchased Waitkus for $45,000. He played the entire 1954 season with the O's. He returned to the Phillies for a handful of games in 1955, after being released by Baltimore. Waitkus retired following the 1955 season.

1 comment:

GM-Carson said...

I really like your "Sunday School" thing you've got going here. Excellent theme day.