September 8, 2008
by William Szczepanek
This card of Eddie Waitkus is a good looking card of a good looking ballplayer. It’s as good looking as the rookie card of Mickey Mantle from the same year, which is the second highest valued card, next to that of the legendary Honus Wagner (T206). Most people have never heard of Eddie Waitkus. This card is listed as a common card from the initial Topps offering of 1952 and has minimal value. I don’t know why.
Eddie Waitkus had a 12 year major league career and was a lifetime .285 hitter. His baseball career was interrupted by WWII where he earned four Bronze Stars in the Philippines. He was a star for the Chicago Cubs, elected to the All Star team twice.
In 1949, while playing for the Phillies in Chicago he was summoned to a hotel room by a women who explained that she had something very important to talk to him about. Upon entering the room, he was shot with a rifle at the Edgewater Beach Hotel by a stalker, Ruth Ann Steinhagen, who was obsessed with him after watching him play earlier for the Chicago Cubs. The bullet lodged near his heart. Near death, he survived the operating room, where the bullet was removed. Steinhagen planned to kill him with a knife and then kill herself with the rifle, but became confused. She was ruled to be insane and spent time in a mental institution.
Waitkus recovered well enough to lead the league in singles in 1950 as part of the “Phillies Whiz Kids” who won the National League pennant that year. Writers in his rookie year of 1941 often referred to him as a natural.
Elements of the Waitkus story were interwoven with the lives of other players (Shoeless Joe Jackson) in the formation of the Bernard Malamud novel of 1952, The Natural, which in 1984 also became one of the greatest baseball movies ever made.
Now, when someone asks who The Natural was, you know the answer is not Robert Redford.
You can check out Waitkus's stats at Baseball-Reference.com