East Cambridge and Beyond
The bizarre incident at the Edgewater Beach shocked baseball fans across the country and sealed the fate of Eddie Waitkus. Three years later, it even became part of baseball folklore. In 1952, Bernard Malamud fictionalized the shooting in his book The Natural. Malamud's young hero, Roy Hobbs, pursuer of the American baseball dream, is drawn into a woman's hotel room. “Roy, ” he's sweetly asked, “will you be the best there ever was in the game?” Then, inexplicably, he is shot.
In 1949, baseball was very much the American dream. An ailing Joe DiMaggio had become the first baseball player to earn a salary of $100,000 a season. He watched from the Yankee dugout on opening day as his club unveiled a stone monument to Babe Ruth in center field. The inscription: “A great ball player. A great man. A great American. ” It towered over plaques of past Yankee icons Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins, Ruth's manager. Weeks later, the Yankees signed a seventeen-year-old high school star from Oklahoma—Mickey Mantle—for $1,000.
In 1949, baseball commissioner Happy Chandler sold the World Series radio and television rights to the Gillette Safety Razor Company for $1,000,000. Baseball was also inspiration that year for the silver screen and its biggest stars. At least four hit movies used baseball as a theme: Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a musical with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin; It Happens Every Spring, a comedy with Ray Milland and Jean Peters; The Stratton Story, with Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson; and The Kid from Cleveland, featuring Lou Boudreau, Satchel Paige, and Indians owner Bill Veeck.