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Ruth Ann Steinhagen, crazed fan who inspired the film ‘The Natural’ dies at 83

By Allison Cordaro,

Ruth Ann Steinhagen, the obsessed fan who inspired Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel and subsequent movie starring Robert Redford entitled, The Natural, was confirmed dead by the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Steinhagen made headlines in 1949 when she lured Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus into her hotel room with a cryptic note. Upon entering the Chicago hotel room, Steinhagen shot and nearly killed Waitkus.

Philly Magazine reported that following the scandal, Steinhagen disappeared into obscurity for the last 60 years of her life, living a quiet life in Chicago. She has not been heard of until now, when reports began surfacing that Steinhagen died of natural causes on December 29 at the age of 83.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, her identity came as a surprise to morgue employees, even those who had seen the 1984 film.

Steinhagen first developed a crush for Waitkus when he played first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. She demonstrated obsessive behavior early on, setting a place for Waitkus at the family table and turning her bedroom into a shrine.

After Waitkus was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1948, Steinhagen decided to kill him. She was 19 years old when she wrote him the cryptic note luring him to her Edgewater Beach Hotel room.

"We're not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about," she wrote.

When Waitkus arrived, Steinhagen reportedly told the first baseman that she “had a surprise” for him. She shot Waitkus in the chest with a rifle, almost killing him.

A news frenzy followed the sensational story of “Baseball Annie.” One likely-staged photograph depicted the teenager writing in her journal in her jail cell, a framed picture of Waitkus nearby.

Steinhagen was declared insane, and she was committed to a mental hospital. Following her release three years later, “Baseball Annie” returned to Chicago where she lived a quiet, private life.

 
 

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