Baseball's Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus

Overview

Baseball's Natural is John Theodore's true account of the slick-fielding first baseman who played for the Cubs and the Phillies in the 1940s and became immortalized in baseball lore as the inspiration for Bernard Malamud's The Natural.

Eddie Waitkus grew up in Boston and fought in the Pacific theater in World War II. Following the war, Waitkus became one of the most popular players of his era. In 1949, with his career on the rise, his life changed dramatically in a Chicago hotel...

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Overview

Baseball's Natural is John Theodore's true account of the slick-fielding first baseman who played for the Cubs and the Phillies in the 1940s and became immortalized in baseball lore as the inspiration for Bernard Malamud's The Natural.

Eddie Waitkus grew up in Boston and fought in the Pacific theater in World War II. Following the war, Waitkus became one of the most popular players of his era. In 1949, with his career on the rise, his life changed dramatically in a Chicago hotel when a nineteen-year-old shot him in the chest. Waitkus's dramatic recovery the next year inspired his teammates as the Phillies won the National League pennant. Although Waitkus survived the shooting, he could never outlive it.

Through interviews with Waitkus's family, fellow servicemen, former ballplayers, and childhood friends, and aided by fifteen photographs, Theodore chronicles Waitkus's remarkable comeback as well as the difficult years following his Major League career.

Native Chicagoan John Theodore has served as a reporter, writer, editor, and television and radio producer. Ira Berkow is a sports columnist for the New York Times and the author of To the Hoop: Seasons of a Basketball Life and Court Vision: Unexpected Views on the Lure of Basketball, available in a Bison Books edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Eddie Waitkus, whose ill fortune it was to be the inspiration for Roy Hobbs in Bernard Malamud's The Natural, was both an anomaly and an enigma. A thinker in a profession populated by doers, he was a slick-fielding singles hitter at a position (first base) usually inhabited by power hitters. He wrote poetry expressing deep emotions but was so self-contained that his own daughter professed not to know whether those feelings were really his own or mere poetic device. He loved and was loved by the ladies but was not a satyr, as are many professional athletes, yet he was shot by a crazed female fan in her Chicago hotel room. He was not a rowdy drunk given to barroom brawls and still he drank himself out of baseball. A career .285 hitter who despite initial accolades never led the league in any major fielding category, he was a comparatively minor figure in baseball history. But these inconsistencies render him interesting, and freelancer Theodore tells his story well. Recommended for mid-sized to large public library baseball collections. Jim Burns, Jacksonville P.L., FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

“Wonderful. . . . There wasn’t a Nobel Prize at the end of Waitkus’ journey, but readers may find a similarity between him and Jonathan Nash of A Beautiful Mind. Both were good men who struggled mightily against demons they did not create. Thanks to Theodore’s meticulous research and passionate writing, perhaps Waitkus will rise above his footnote status, at least for a time.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Eddie Waitkus, whose ill fortune it was to be the inspiration for Roy Hobbs in Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, was both an anomaly and an enigma. . . .

[T]hese inconsistencies render him interesting, and Theodore tells his story well.”

Library Journal

“The name Waitkus has probably ceased to have much resonance among baseball fans. But this is what Theodore’s sensitive and well researched book has managed to cure. In a strange way, Waitkus emerges as a lost hero of sorts, a man worthy of being memorialized in this book.”Ray Robinson, author of Iron Horse: Lou Gehrig in His Time, and coauthor of Pennants and Pinstripes: A 100 Year History of the New York Yankees
 

“For anyone who loves baseball, Theodore’s Baseball’s Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus is a must read. . . . It has all the elements of a great novel.”

—Steve Neal, Chicago Sun-Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803259584
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2006
  • Pages: 140
  • Sales rank: 427,185
  • Product dimensions: 0.40 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Currently a freelance writer, native Chicagoan John Theodore has served as a reporter, writer, editor, and television and radio producer for United Press International, WGN and WGN-TV.

New York Times sportswriter and 1988 Pulitzer Prize nominee Ira Berkow provides the foreword to this compelling rediscovery of baseball’s natural.

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