New York Yankees: Brett Gardner wants ardent lady fan restrained legally

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees looks on during batting practice prior to game three of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 15: Brett Gardner #11 of the New York Yankees looks on during batting practice prior to game three of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium on October 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Joe Traver/Liaison)
(Photo by Joe Traver/Liaison) /

New York Yankees: Brett Gardner wants fan restrained legally

How Waitkus’ Shooting Was Portrayed in ‘The Natural’

Eddie Waitkus’ shooting partially informs the Roy Hobbs character in Bernard Malamud’s novel, The Natural, of course. The fictitious Hobbs was shot in the stomach in the hotel room of an ardent lady fan who’d witnessed him beat a Babe Ruth-like star on a carnival wager. She fired point blank range after he said “yes” to her question of whether he’d become the best there ever was. Not exactly an unrequited love.

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Hobbs survived and became a shattered wanderer until giving baseball a final try in (we presume) his thirties. Waitkus retired at 35, after dividing 1955 between the Baltimore Orioles (to whom the Phillies sold him in spring 1954) and the Phillies (who signed him after the Orioles released him in July 1955).

He had survived and come to ready terms with the action he saw in the Army in World War II, but the Steinhagen shooting was something else entirely. He suffered what would come to be known as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Once an outgoing man, his marriage collapsed in 1961, he suffered a subsequent nervous breakdown and became known to self-medicate with alcohol in the years to follow.

Waitkus died of previously undiagnosed cancer at 53 in 1972. His son eventually told the Society for American Baseball Research that the family believed the four surgeries he needed after the shooting might have left room for cancer to invade. He’s still the most famous case of a baseball player shot by an obsessed fan, but he’s not the first.

An earlier Cub, infielder Billy Jurges, was shot in July 1932 by Violet Valli, a showgirl with whom he’d ended a romance. She’d intended to kill herself but failed; her suicide note blamed another Cub, Hall of Fame outfielder Kiki Cuyler, for convincing Jurges to end the affair.

Jurges’s refusal to press charges led to Valli’s release. He eventually became a major league manager and scout; Valli, like Steinhagen, seems to have disappeared into obscurity. Gardner filing to restrain Devasahayam must seem an option Waitkus’s and Jurges’s families wish they’d have had.

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Steinhagen was reported widely to have told Waitkus she would kill him so he couldn’t “trouble” her anymore. Devasahayam hasn’t been known to say or tweet anything comparable, never mind take comparable action. Yet.