She lived for a dream that wouldn’t die. Ruth Ann Steinhagen, dies at 83.
The Chicago woman whose near-fatal 1949 shooting of former Cubs first baseman Eddie Waitkus inspired the book and movie “The Natural” died with the same anonymity with which she lived for more than half a century.
The 19-year-old’s crime, which put a spotlight on stalking crimes, nearly killed Waitkus, 29, and temporarily sidetracked his career. The incident also helped to draw attention to “baseball Annies” — young, hero-worshipping groupies who would pursue major league ballplayers, often relentlessly.
However, from the time that Ruth Ann Steinhagen left Kankakee State Hospital in 1952 after undergoing nearly three years of psychiatric treatment, she disappeared into near obscurity — so much so that one of her final next-door neighbors said he lived there for more than 15 years before learning her history.
Steinhagen, who never spoke publicly about the Waitkus incident after her release from the hospital, spent much of her final 42 years living in a modest house on the Northwest Side with her parents and sister.
She died Dec. 29 at Swedish Covenant Hospital of a subdural hematoma caused by an accidental fall in her longtime home, a Cook County medical examiner spokeswoman said. She was 83.
Her death had gone unreported and was only discovered when the Tribune was searching death records for another story.
Posted: March 16, 2013 at 07:17 AM | 104 comment(s)
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