Baseball's Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus

By John Theodore | Go to book overview
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3
A Sealed Fate

On June 15, 1949, Chicagoans awoke to a three-inch banner headline on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune:“eddie WAITKUS SHOT; QUIZ girl. The bulletin below tried to make sense of the event: “Miss Ruth Steinhagen, 19, of 1950 Lincoln av. admitted that she shot Eddie Waitkus, Police Capt. John T. Warren said. She earlier had given her name as Ruth Anne Burns and told a confused story, Warren said. Waitkus said he never had seen the girl before last night.

Waitkus's friends were shaken by the shooting. The Phillies' Russ Meyer and Bill Nicholson and Phil Cavarretta of the Cubs tried to organize a prayer vigil at the hospital, but doctors said no. “He's one of the sweetest guys I ever knew, Nicholson said. “I never got such a shock in my life. He's not the kind of man who goes around getting in trouble. I've been in baseball fifteen years and never roomed with a finer guy.

Waitkus was shot in the right side of the chest, just below the nipple. The bullet pierced the lung and lodged in muscle near the spine. He was bleeding in the right lung but conscious when the ambulance brought him to Illinois Masonic Hospital's emergency entrance. “I guess the gal wasn't a Phillies fan, he said to a nurse.

The path the bullet took as it spun through his body proved to be miraculously lucky for Waitkus. Any caliber other than a .22, doctors agreed, would have caused instant death. The small bullet slipped cleanly between two ribs. It missed the arteries, veins, and nerves that run on the underside of each rib. It ripped a hole in his right lung, collapsing it, but managed to travel relatively harmlessly again between the ribs in his back, hitting no

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