Obsessed Fan Who Shot Baseball Player Dies

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Ruth Steinhagen in 1949, writing from her jail cell
Ruth Steinhagen in 1949, writing from her jail cell

photo via Daily Mail UK

Did you ever see the movie, The Natural? If you have, you know it is the story of Eddie Waitkus, the handsome first baseman for the Chicago Cubs who was the heartthrob of a lot of young women in 1948.

He caught the eye of one troubled 19-year old woman who had a fatal attraction for the young first baseman. Her name was Ruth Ann Steinhagen.

Steinhagen imagined him as her boyfriend. She set a place for him at the dinner table and turned her bedroom into a shrine to him.

She saw him every day at the local stadium but when he was traded and she couldn’t see him daily, her obsession raged out of control.

When Waitkus was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1948 season, she became convinced she had to kill him.

When the Philadelphia Phillies came to Chicago to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 14, 1949, she saw that as an opportunity to act on her fantasy. She sent Waitkus a note telling him she had something of importance to speak to him about and asked him to come to her room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel where he was also staying.

It worked.When he arrived, she said, “I have a surprise for you.” She walked to the closet, pulled out a rifle and shot him in the chest.

He survived and played out the season. She went off to the mental hospital when she was declared insane.

He decided not to press charges when she was judged sane after three years. she was released.

Steinhagen disappeared for the last sixty years of her life. Then, last December 29th, she ended up in the Cook County morgue. She was 83. For the decades since the shooting, she lived anonymously. For some of that time, she lived with her sister and told neighbors that she worked in an office for 35 years but no one knows the name of her employer.

Waitkus died in 1972, 12 years before Robert Redford portrayed him in The Natural. He suffered from PTSD after the shooting and it negatively impacted his career and his marriage. He died of esophageal cancer at age 53. Prior to his death he was an instructor at the Ted Williams baseball camp, something he greatly enjoyed.

Eddie Waitkus
Eddie Waitkus
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