Ruth Ann Steinhagen, the woman who inspired the movie “The Natural” starring Robert Redford, Barbara Hershey and Kim Basinger, died in Chicago three months ago, MSNBC reported on March 17. Steinhagen is the woman who shot and nearly killed Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus almost a half century ago.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed on Friday, March 15 that Ruth Ann Steinhagen had died of natural causes on Dec. 29 at the age of 83. Her identity was a surprise even to the morgue employees who knew about the 1984 movie “The Natural” in which Steinhagen was portrayed by Barbara Hershey.
A teenage Steinhagen appeared to have a schoolgirl crush on handsome Chicago Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus. Ruth Ann would set a place for Waitkus at the family dinner table and turned her bedroom into a shrine to him.
Waitkus was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1948 season. Steinhagen made the decision to kill Eddie Waitkus and when the Phillies came to Chicago to play the Cubs the next season, Ruth Ann checked into the Edgewater Hotel and invited Waitkus to her room.
“We’re not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about,” Ruth Ann Steinhagen wrote in a note to Eddie Waitkus after the game at Wrigley Field on June 14, 1949. After the shooting a judge declared her insane and committed her to a mental hospital. Three years later doctors proclaimed that her sanity had returned and she was released.
Theodore Stewart, who authored a 2002 nonfiction book “Baseball’s Natural: The story of Eddie Waitkus,” says Steinhagen lived with her sister, and claimed to have worked in an office for 35 years, but never revealed the name of her employer. Ruth Ann took great pains to keep her identity a secret often refusing to answer the phone or come to the door when Stewart knocked.
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