Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach

By John L. Caughey | Go to book overview

Prologue
Three Fantasy Relationships

On 14 June 1949, there was a shooting in a Chicago hotel. Eddie Waitkus, first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies, was staying in the downtown hotel with his team for a series with the Chicago Cubs. Late in the evening Waitkus received a call in his room from Ruth Steinhagen, an eighteen-year-old girl who had just checked into the same hotel. She had never spoken to Waitkus, never met him, never communicated with him in any way. But she had to see him, she said, about "something important." When Waitkus knocked on her door, Ruth told him to come in. When he entered, there she was--with a .22 rifle.

"For two years you have been bothering me," she said. "And now you are going to die." And then she shot him in the stomach.

Waitkus was rushed to the hospital. He survived and lived to play professional baseball again. But who was Ruth Steinhagen and what was her motive? At first the press was mystified. Then it emerged that although she had never met Waitkus, she had a strong emotional attachment to him. She was "one of his greatest fans." She had been "in love" with him for two years. In a psychiatric report to felony court, the events leading up to the shooting were reconstructed as follows.1

Steinhagen had first noticed Eddie Waitkus in April 1947, two years before the shooting, when she and a girl friend had attended a baseball game at Wrigley Field. At the time Waitkus was playing for the Chicago Cubs and Steinhagen became very interested in him. Her interest developed into a strong emotional attachment or "crush," a highly intense, totally one-sided fantasy romance.

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