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Eddie Waitkus
Eddie Waitkus.jpg
First baseman
Born: (1919-09-04)September 4, 1919
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Died: September 16, 1972(1972-09-16) (aged 53)
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 15, 1941 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
September 20, 1955 for the Philadelphia Phillies
Career statistics
Batting average .285
Hits 1,214
Runs batted in 373
Career highlights and awards

Edward Stephen Waitkus (September 4, 1919 – September 16, 1972) was a Lithuanian-American first baseman in Major League Baseball who had an 11-year career (1941, 1946–1955). He played for the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League and for the Baltimore Orioles of the American League. He was elected to the National League All-Star team twice (1948 and 1949).

Early career[edit]

Waitkus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, grew up in Boston. He began his pro career in 1938 playing for the Worumbo Indians, a semi-pro team sponsored by Worumbo Woolen Mill in Lisbon Falls, Maine. As a rookie, he was known as "the natural," which gave the title to the book loosely based on his life. He saw some of the bloodier fighting of World War II with the U.S. Army in the Philippines, awarded four Bronze Stars. Upon his return to baseball he quickly became a star for the Chicago Cubs. He also became a popular media figure, as he was well-educated and was fluent in the Lithuanian, Polish, German and French languages.[1] Following the 1948 season, the Cubs traded Waitkus with Hank Borowy to the Philadelphia Phillies for Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard.


Just a few years into the start of what seemed a very promising career, Ruth Ann Steinhagen, an obsessed fan, shot Waitkus at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel on June 14, 1949,[2] in one of the earliest recognized cases of criminal stalking.[3] Steinhagen had become infatuated with him when he was a Cub, but seeing him every day in-season may have kept her obsession in check.

Once he was traded to the Phillies, Steinhagen's obsession grew to dangerous proportions. She checked into the hotel using the alias of a former high school classmate of his and left a note at the desk, asking him to come to her hotel room on an urgent matter.

When he arrived in her room, she shot him with a .22 caliber rifle, the bullet barely missing his heart. She immediately called the desk to report the shooting and was found cradling his head in her lap.[3]

He nearly died several times on the operating table before the bullet was successfully removed. Steinhagen never stood trial but instead was confined to a mental institution. The incident is discussed at length in one of the Fireside Book of Baseball entries.

In uniform on the night of August 19, 1949, for the first time since he had been shot in Chicago, Waitkis was feted by the Phillies on "Eddie Waitkus Night" at Shibe Park and showered with gifts. After the 1950 season, Waitkus was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.[4]

Later life[edit]

Prior to the 1954 season, the Baltimore Orioles purchased Waitkus from the Philadelphia Phillies for $40,000 ($351,276 in current dollar terms). Released by the Orioles in 1955, he returned to the Phillies[5] for the remainder of the season. After the 1955 baseball season was complete, the Phillies released Waitkus.[6]

Waitkus taught at Ted Williams' baseball camp before passing away of esophageal cancer at age 53.[7]

The Natural[edit]

Author Bernard Malamud, not a baseball fan himself, wove the basic elements of the Waitkus story and other baseball legends (notably that of Joe Jackson) into The Natural.[8] The book was published in 1952 and was made into a Hollywood film starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close released in 1984.

The film's DVD features a biography of Waitkus and notes writers called him "a natural" early in his career. Malamud's novel ends tragically and foreshadowed the end of Waitkus's career.


  1. ^ Marshall, William (1999). Baseball's Pivotal Era, 1945–1951. Kentucky, USA: University Press of Kentucky. p. 528. ISBN 9780813120416. 
  2. ^ "Silly Honey". Time. June 27, 1949. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Andrews, Dale (March 26, 2013). "Stalker". SleuthSayers. 
  4. ^ "Waitkus, Who Beat Death Rap, 'Comeback King'". Ellensburg Daily Record. November 10, 1950. p. 3. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 
  5. ^ Phillies sign Eddie Waitkus
  6. ^ Phillies release Waitkus, Lowrey; Sell Bob Kuzava
  7. ^ Munich tragedy has happened before
  8. ^ "This Day in Philly Sports History: A Demented Fan and the Natural". PhillySportsHistory.com. June 14, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Waitkus — Please support Wikipedia.
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The Eddie Waitkus Shooting

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Eddie Waitkus

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Synopsis | Baseball's Natural: The Story Of Eddie Waitkus By John Theodore

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109 news items


Wed, 04 Mar 2015 05:52:30 -0800

Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus, a contemporary of DiMaggio's, was famously shot in the chest by Ruth Ann Steinhagen, a deranged fan. Steinhagen was sent to a mental institution; Waitkus survived but was emotionally ...
New York Times
Sat, 23 Mar 2013 14:35:21 -0700

On the night of June 14, 1949, a young woman gave an enormous tip — $5 — to a bellhop at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago to deliver a note to another guest, Eddie Waitkus, the first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, who were in town to play ...
Chicago Tribune
Thu, 14 Mar 2013 18:28:27 -0700

The Chicago woman whose near-fatal 1949 shooting of former Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus inspired the book and movie "The Natural" died with the same anonymity with which she lived for more than half a century. The 19-year-old's crime, which put a ...
Mon, 18 Mar 2013 09:58:31 -0700

Ruth Ann Steinhagen, the obsessed Cubs fan who shot Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus, a former Cub, in a Chicago hotel on June 14, 1949, inspiring the pivotal event of Bernard Malamud's The Natural, died of natural causes on Dec. 29, a fact that ...
WBEZ (blog)
Tue, 03 Apr 2012 06:38:09 -0700

The baseball season opens this week. Before we become too involved in the annual tragedies of the Sox and Cubs, let's pause to consider an actual Chicago baseball tragedy: the story of Eddie Waitkus. Unlike some other baseball players, Eddie did not ...


Sat, 31 Jan 2015 04:11:15 -0800

Fun trivia: There's a lot of fantasy woven throughout this (it's not hard to find parallels to "The Odyssey," or the King Arthur legends) but also some real-life details: In 1949, Eddie Waitkus of the Phillies was shot by a crazed fan, too (like Roy ...
Bleed Cubbie Blue
Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:11:35 -0800

Uniform number 27 is not assigned to any current Cub. In fact, no Cub has worn it in a regular-season game since 2012, when it belonged to Casey Coleman. Once again, the all-time list is pretty thin: Bobo Newsom (1932), Gene Lillard (1939), Eddie ...


Tue, 10 Feb 2015 00:54:36 -0800

Eddie Waitkus. Jį galima vadinti daugiausiai pasiekusiu lietuvių kilmės beisbolininku. Pirmoje bazėje rungtyniavęs E. Waitkus stipriausioje JAV lygoje MLB su pertraukomis žaidė nuo 1941 m. iki 1955 m. Nors lietuvių kilmės amerikiečio komandoms nepavyko ...

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