WAITKUS, whose baseball career and
life were the inspiration for the
book The Natural, actually used this
Louisville Slugger (model C31) with barrel signature
stamp rather than the fictional "Wonder
FIRST BASEMAN Eddie Waitkus
bat in an August
1955 series at Busch Stadium in which
Philadelphia swept three straight from
the Cardinals. In the third game of
the series Eddie had a Roy Hobbs type
of day, and his best game of what would
be his last season, ripping three hits
- one a round-tripper - and drove
in four runs in a 9-6 Phillie victory.
Waitkus survived shooting to help "Whiz Kids"
win 1950 National League pennant
Waitkus became an immortalized figure in baseball
lore as the inspiration for Roy Hobbs in Bernard Malamud's The
EDDIE WAITKUS came up with the Cubs in 1941
and was a member of the pennant winning
1950 Philadelphia Phillies "Whiz Kids."
Eddie Waitkus began his Major League career on April 15, 1941 with the Chicago Cubs.
A slick-fielding first baseman for 11 seasons for the Cubs, Phillies
and Orioles, Waitkus became an immortalized figure in baseball lore
as the inspiration for Roy Hobbs in Bernard Malamud's 1984 movie,
The Natural starring Robert Redford as Hobbs.
After serving with distinction in the Pacific during World War II, Waitkus became one of the most popular players of his era. As a rookie he led the Cubs in hitting in 1946 and quickly established himself as one of the best first basemen in the National League. To the disappointment of many Cubbie fans, Chicago traded Waitkus to the Phillies in December of 1948.
When he returned to Chicago in a Philadelphia uniform in June of
1949, he was hitting .306 and seemed destined for the all-star team.
But, on the night of June 14 at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, Waitkus'
bright career took an infamously tragic turn. He received a cryptic
note summoning him to meet a young fan, Ruth Steinhagen. When Waitkus
entered her hotel room, she shot him in the chest.
A WEEK AFTER
Waitkus was shot in Chicago by
19-year old Ruth Steinhagen, the
Phillies' first baseman tried out
his legs at Illinois Masonic Hospital.
Waitkus survived the shooting and made an inspirational return to baseball in 1950. As the Phillies' leadoff hitter Waitkus helped Philadelphia win the National League pennant batting .284, scoring 102 runs and playing in 154 games.
Unfortunately for Philadelphia, in the
1950 World Series, the Phillies lost
to the Yankees by three consecutive one-run decisions.
After being sold to the Orioles during spring training of 1954, Waitkus returned to Philadelphia in late 1955 and retired that fall.
Waitkus was a National League all-star in 1948 and 1949 (missing the
game due to his gun shot wound) and played 11 seasons, compiling a
lifetime average of .285 and 1,214 hits.
While Waitkus triumphed over his assault,
he couldn't conquer his private demons. According to his family and
friends, Waitkus was never the same after the shooting. His outgoing
and friendly nature was gone, and replaced with a man who was withdrawn
and just generally suspicious of people.
Depression stemming from the attack led to a severe problem with alcohol, a failed marriage and a nervous breakdown. Waitkus worked with youngsters at the Ted Williams baseball camp in the last years of his life. He died of cancer in 1972 at the age of 53.
AS A ROOKIE, Waitkus led the Cubs in hitting in 1946 with
a .304 average and quickly established himself as one of the
best first basemen in the National League. To the disappointment
of many Cubbie fans, Chicago traded Waitkus to the Phillies
EDDIE WAITKUS became an immortalized figure in baseball lore
as the inspiration for Roy Hobbs in Bernard Malamud's
movie, The Natural,
starring Robert Redford (above)
EDDIE WAITKUS: Did you know...
...Waitkus won four
Battle Stars during World War II, and
was wounded as an Amphibious Engineer Sergeant
in the Pacific.
was offered scholarships to Holy Cross
and Harvard, but passed them up to
play pro baseball.
...Waitkus, on June 23, 1946, hit
back-to-back inside-the-park home
runs with Marv Rickert a
Major League first.
...Waitkus hit an inside-the-park
grand slam on August 24, 1947. Only six players had accomplished
that since 1920.
...Waitkus was traded in Dec. 1948
by the Chicago Cubs with Hank Borowy to the Philadelphia Phillies
for Monk Dubiel and Dutch Leonard.
...Waitkus was purchased in March
1954 by the Baltimore Orioles from the Philadelphia Phillies.
...Waitkus was born September 4,
1919 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He died September 16, 1972 in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts at age
WAITKUS WAS TRADED from
the Phillies to the Orioles in 1954.
He played in Baltimore in 1954 and
the first half of 1955, but was traded
back to the Phillies for whom he played
out the last 33 games of a very memorable