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Based on a True Story (Part 2)

Photo: lifevsfilm.com

So perhaps your most pressing question from Based on a True Story (Part 1) is, so did that guy die?

Yes, he did. That was a long time ago. If he had lived through that, he’d be around a 100 years old right now. So yes – he died. But – not from the gunshot wound inflicted by Ruth Ann Steinhagen.

Waikus, that was his name, you remember, right? Eddie Waikus – after he was shot – he made a full recovery, and went on to play for another five (5) seasons in the majors. He did not die until the early 1970s.

So what happened to her – the real life woman who shot him…well, real life has a funny way of flipping the script…

Ruth Ann Steinhagen, when she shot Waikus, had planned to also take her own life. But, something, perhaps it was compassion, or, more likely, something else even more unexplainable…whatever – something, this something came over her and she was compelled to alert the authorities of her crime, and then she stayed with Waikus to comfort him until they arrived.

She was arrested. When asked why she did what she had done, she said “I’m not real sure.”

Perhaps she was not even kidding.

Waikus suffered a collapsed lung, and his full recovery required multiple blood transfusions and several surgeries. But – he recovered, and made it back to baseball.

At the pre-trial hearing for Ms. Steinhagen, Waikus seemed more upset about the fact that she had ruined his sport coat, but he did also acknowledge at that time, that he had “no compassion for her.” Steinhagen was declared insane – and thus unfit to stand trial.

Almost 3 years later, when she was considered cured, Waikus could have pressed charges, but he decided not to – and he just went on living his life. Until he died of cancer – in 1972. Interestingly, his shooter, Ms. Steinhagen – she drifted into the life of a recluse: She would not speak of the shooting incident (totally understandable). And, she outlived Waikus by 40 years, passing away in 2012.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!! This is a story where everybody dies? I thought you said, …

I did.

No. Everybody doesn’t die. But – let’s try to get back to the point…

So – in real life, this big-leaguer gets shot. This real life story inspires the fictional story in Bernard Malamud’s 1952 novel, The Natural. Malamud’s book inspires the movie of the same name, and a classic is born, and bam! It’s 1984, and the best movie ever gets made! So, – we’re right back into discussion about art imitating life, and life imitating art…

As these pictures file through my veins…

The Natural, envisioned as the best movie ever made…

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait….huh?

Ok – so let’s back up…we have…Roy Hobbs…”Wonderboy”…Iris…Young love…Cold rain…Lightning… Bobby Savoy…”Pick me out a winner, Bobby”…the”Savoy Special”…”Do you think I could make one those bats?”…and,

The Fountain of Youth!!!!

You remember now, yeah? Yeah? You do, huh!?!

Aye, yi, yi! The water, it was icy, as it washed over me…

The Fountain of Youth – is not cold, no?

No, I do not believe that it is, but – now get this…this is the crucial point:

The Fountain of Youth is in all of us!

Whenever we tap into new experiences…

Whenever we ask new questions…

Whenever we encounter new ideas…

Whenever we meet new people…

Whenever we try new things…

Whenever we reach for new heights…

Whenever we see things in brand new ways…

Whenever we are able to see ourselves in brand new ways…

Whenever we are able to see others in brand new ways…

Then…we stir the ice-laced waters in our lives with an elegant finger, and we become part of the fountain of youth…

It has been said that the university, life at university, is the closest thing to the fountain of youth that there is

  • Always new people
  • Always new ideas
  • Always new chemistry
  • Always new classes
  • Always new formulas
  • Always new semesters

So yeah, that’s pretty close to the fountain of youth – but, in this day and age, university life has become increasingly less static – and, even more fluid!!

It has become submerged in the real fountain of youth…that is in everyone!!

So what does all that mean?

You remember, Bobby? Bat boy Bobby? Do you think I can make one those bats Bobby?

Who was also saying, “Will you help me find the fountain of youth in me?” So Roy Hobbs and Bobby Savoy carve a bat made of wood, the “Savoy Special,” fashioned straight from the fountain of youth…

And when we help others find the fountain of youth in themselves, it just might come back on us…

How fitting, when Roy used the Savoy Special to knock out the lights and win the pennant…

Oh, yes – this movie is rich!!!

Jump back to Iris – after all those years – she found Roy again.

And when he was two strikes down, why did she stand up?

She stood up, because she did not want to see him fail, and…

By standing up, she alerted him, and…

Having been alerted – he found the wherewithal within himself, the fountain of youth in him –

To reach new heights, and

To find new success!

There was no strike three. He homered again, and won that game too!

But what does all that mean?

Well, for one, at least, it means that…

By standing up – you can keep someone from failing.


Conradt, S. (2016). The true story behind The Natural. Mental floss (June 15, 2016). Available:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/81530/true-story-behind-natural. Retrieved: March 9, 2017.

Memmot, M. (2013). Stalker who inspired The Natural Dies; Lived real life in obscurity.

Breaking News from NPR (March 18, 2013). Available: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/03/18/174623312/stalker-who-inspired-the-natural-dies-lived-real-life-in-obscurity, Retrieved March 9, 2017.

By Dr. Rodney J. Blackman

Dr. Rodney J. Blackman is the Chair of Recreation Management at the United States Sports Academy, and can be reached at rblackman@ussa.edu.

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