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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 18th, 2013
06:12 PM ET

The Natural fan: Obsessed baseball fan who inspired Robert Redford movie has died

And now the news from the other side. Every day, we bring you stories from below the fold - the things that might not make headlines but caught our attention. We call it "The Buried Lead," and today, it involves a woman who wasn't buried soon enough. Ruth Ann Steinhagen was a groupie gone mad who shot a promising baseball player in the 1940's. If the story sounds familiar, that's because it was the inspiration for the 1984 film "The Natural," starring Robert Redford and Barbara Hershey.

The papers called Steinhagen "Baseball Annie," and she became one of the first noteworthy sports stalkers, one of the first to put the fan in fanatic.

Steinhagen's story was once splashed across the tabloids, but her recent death was a mere blip on the news radar.

Still, her unsettling story lives on.

The 19-year-old Chicago Cubs fan lured a ballplayer into a hotel room with a fateful note, only to shot him in the chest, nearly killing him.

In real life, the ballplayer was actually Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus, a former Cubbie who was traded to Philly.

Steinhagen's bedroom was a shrine to Waitkus, she slept with his pictures under her pillow, even set a place for him at the dinner table every night. It was an obsession that started when she was 16.

After she shot him, Waitkus endured several surgeries and would return to play baseball the next year.

Steinhagen was ruled insane and never tried for the shooting, and ultimately was forgotten - living, and then dying, forgotten and alone in a Chicago hospital.

News just broke now that she died nearly three months ago. Her identity was reportedly a shock to morgue workers, who knew the story from the iconic film decades ago.

Steinhagen was 83 years old, and she never lived to see her beloved Cubs win a World Series, or even make another World Series. The last time the "loveable losers" won the pennant, was back in 1945.

Filed under: Buried Lead
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