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Living in the Shadows

Living in the Shadows
 
    
 
 
     On December 29, 2012, Ruth Ann Steinhagen passed away at the age of 83, in Chicago, Illinois.  Who is Ruth Steinhagen you ask?  She was once the 19-year-old young, obsessed woman, who had a crush on the Chicago Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus.  Eddie was one of the stars on the Chicago Cubs team and was currently hitting .306.  On August 24, 1947, he became one of only six players since 1920, to hit an inside-the-park grand slam.  He was also selected to the 1948 National League All-Star team.  Ruth had become a Cubs fan at the age of 16 and attended as many games as she could.  So infatuated with Waikus was Ruth that she set a place for him at her table at home for dinner every night even though she had never met him.  She turned her bedroom walls into a shrine of Waitkus and even placed his photo under her pillow at night while sleeping.  When she found out that Eddie Waitkus was of Lithuanian descent, she started taking classes on how to speak the language.  Her actions were also the inspiration behind the creation of the 1952 book entitled The Natural, written by Bernard Malamud.  A movie by the same name was later released in 1984.  The star studded cast of this movie included Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Robert Duval, Wilfred Brimley, and Barbara Hershey, who played Ruth Steinhagen.  Robert Redford played the real-life character of Waikus, but used the name Roy Hobbs in the movie.        In December of the 1948 season, 29-year-old Eddie Waitkus was traded by the Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Ruth was so upset, she decided to kill Waitkus.  On June 14, 1949, when the Phillies came to Wrigley to play the Cubs, Ruth had her chance.  Steinhagen used the name Ruth Ann Burns, an alias of a former high-school classmate of Eddie’s, and checked into the Edgewater Beach Hotel, where the Phillies were staying.  She then left Waitkus a note at the front desk.  She invited Eddie to her room.  The note said, “We’re not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about.”  Eddie showed up at her room, #1297, and she answered the door.  Since he did not recognize her, she stated that her friend wanted to see him, but was gone and would be back in just a minute.  He took a seat as she walked to a nearby closet.  Ruth then returned with a .22 caliber rifle and said, “I have a surprise for you.  If I can’t have you, nobody else can,” and shot him in the chest below his heart.  Steinhagen then called the front desk and reported the shooting.  If she had not made that phone call, Waitkus would have bled to death.  Then she kneeled by his side and held his head in her arms, until the authorities came.  After she had been arrested, she told the psychiatrist that she had dreamed many times of killing Eddie Waitkus, because he had left Chicago to play for Philadelphia.  Waitkus nearly died several times while on the operating table, before the bullet could be removed.  It had just missed his heart.  She continued to write him letters from prison and even had his picture taped on the wall of her cell.  The judge determined she was legally insane and committed her to a prison with a mental hospital.  She was diagnosed as being schizophrenic and received shock treatments.  Interestingly, she was declared sane three years later and released.        Eddie Waitkus survived the shooting as Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) did in the movie, but was not able to play in the 1949 All-Star Game even though he had been selected.  He returned to the Philadelphia Phillies and helped propel that team (known as “The Wiz Kids”) to the 1950 National League pennant and secured a spot in the World Series against the New York Yankees.  Ruth Steinhagen moved into her sister’s house in Chicago and took a job where she worked in an office for 35 years without anyone putting things together.  She made every effort to conceal her identity, refusing to answer the door or her telephone.  She lived in the shadows and never divulged where she had worked.       Eddie Waitkus decided not to press charges in 1952, after Ruth was released.  Eddie later became withdrawn, and suspicious of others.  He began to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and suffered a failed marriage.  Eddie Waitkus eventually suffered a nervous breakdown because of the shooting and died at the age of 53, on September 16, 1973, eleven years before the movie was released.  So, the question for me becomes as follows.  Ruth Steinhagen was 55-years-old and alive when the movie The Natural was released in 1984.  Did she know about the movie and did she know it was about her?  Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or 

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