The Muse can certainly throw cold water on a good story. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

The stalker, Ruth Ann Steinhagen in her cell with photo of Eddie Waitkus.
The stalker, Ruth Ann Steinhagen in her cell with photo of Eddie Waitkus.

I am a baseball fan, which is why the Muse comes around a little more often this time of year. He likes the Dodgers. He still thinks they’re in Brooklyn.

The Muse is a traditionalist.

“I’ve found a good story to write,” I said.

The last pitch had been thrown. The last out had been made. The Dodgers lost.

“It’s because they weren’t in Brooklyn,” he said.

“They’re in Los Angeles now,” I said.

“It was a road game,” he said.

I shrugged. I tried again.

“I found a good story to write,” I said.

“There are some good ones out there,” he said.

Eddie Waitkus
Eddie Waitkus

“It’s a baseball story.”

“My favorite kind,” he said.

“Have you ever heard of Eddie Waitkus?” I asked.

“Sure,” said the Muse. “First baseman. Played for the Phillies in 1951. They won the pennant. Press called them the Whiz Kids. They weren’t very good.”

“The beat the Dodgers,” I said.

“Must have cheated,” he said.

“The story has a girl in I,” I said.

“The good stories always do.”

“She was in love with Eddie.”

“He was a handsome dude,” the Muse said, trying to be mod. “Pretty slick with the ladies from what I remember.”

“She was nineteen,” I said.

“He liked them young.”

“She was a stalker.”

The Muse whistled under his breath.

“She lived in Chicago when Eddie was a Cub,” I said. “When he was traded to the Phillies, she went crazy.”

“Literally?”

“Well, at home she sat a plate at the dinner table every night for Eddie.”

“He ever come around her?”

“No.”

“She ever date him?”

“No.”

“She ever meet him?”

“Not until the night she shot him.”

The Muse whistled low under his breath again.

“She was desperately and hopelessly in love,” I said. “She turned her room into a shrine to Waitkus and slept with his photograph under her pillow at night.”

“Sounds like school girl crush to me.”

“When the Phillies came back to Chicago in 1949, she rented a room at the Edgewater Beach Hotel,” I said.

“A little love nest,” the Muse said.

He grinned. Maybe it was a leer.  He liked to read between the lines or beneath the sheets whenever possible.

“She gave a bellhop five dollars to deliver a note to Eddie,” I said.

“What did she write in the note?”

Eddie Waitkus recovering from his gunshot wound.
Eddie Waitkus recovering from his gunshot wound.

“She said, ‘We’re not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about,’” I said. “Then she ordered two whiskey sours and daiquiri from room service and casually sipped on them while she waited.”

“Did Eddie come see her?”

“He did,” I said. “He thought she was probably an old girl friend.”

“He had a lot of those.”

“This one had a .22 rifle in the closet,” I said. “Eddie walked in, and she said, ‘I have a surprise for you.’ She walked to the closet, pulled out the rifle, and told him, ‘For two years you’ve been bothering me, and now you’re going to die.’ And she shot him.”

“In the chest, if I remember correctly,” the Muse said.

He grinned. He had heard the story before. I was sure of it.

“The bullet just missed his heart and lodged in his back,” I said. “She calmly called the front desk, told the clerk what she had done, and the police found her sitting on the floor beside him, cradling Eddie’s head in her lap.”

“But he survived.”

“He did.” I pulled out a slip of paper from my shirt pocket. “Here’s what she wrote to the court-appointed psychiatrist,” I said. “And I quote: ‘I used to go to all the ballgames just to watch him. We used to wait for them to come out of the clubhouse after the game, and all the time I was watching him, I was building in my mind the idea of killing him. As time went on, I just became nuttier and nuttier about the guy.  I knew I would never get to know him in a normal way, so I kept thinking, I will never get him, and if I can’t have him, nobody else can. I would kill him. I didn’t know where or when, but I knew I would kill him.”

“What happened to the girl?”

“The judge agreed with her.”

“Said she was nutty?”

“Locked her away in an asylum for three years.” I sat back and propped my feet up. “The story has it all,” I said. “An athlete. A war hero. A girl. Love. Insanity. A gun. Why Eddie used to say, ‘I survived three years in the Philippines, won four bronze stars, barely got a scratch, came home, and this honey with a gun tries to take me out.’ You can’t make this stuff up.”

“It is a helluva story,” the Muse said.

I nodded.

“Too bad you can’t write it.”

“Why not?”

“Bernard Malamud already has,” he said.

“When?”

“Nineteen fifty-two.”

“What did Bernard call it?”

The Natural.” The Muse shrugs. “The book was better than the movie,” he said. “In the movie, Robert Redford hits a home run.”

I nodded again.

“In the book,” he said, “Roy Hobbs strikes out.”

“Just like Eddie,” I said.

“More or less,” he said.

I knew I wouldn’t see him until the Dodgers were on television again. If he were waiting for a home game in Brooklyn, it would be a while.

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