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This review is from: Baseball's Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus (Writing Baseball) (Hardcover)
Here is a first rate baseball story, albeit with a limited audience. "Baseball's Natural" is the story of Eddie Waitkus, who played first base for the Cubs, Phillies and Orioles from 1941 and 1946-1955. That 3 year WW2 break is significant. Many believe that the period after the War to 1960 was a golden age for Major League Baseball. Those were the years of the (pre-expansion) original 16 teams. The NFL was just coming out of the shadows. The NBA and NHL were minor sports by comparison. To appreciate BN, it helps to remember that period, even if one is not familiar with Waitkus. Eddie was a slick fielder and above average hitter with a bright future. He was intelligent, popular off the field, well-spoken and an inquisitive, well-dressed young man. Then, one night in June of '48, he visited a woman in a Chicago hotel room and was shot! He recovered from the physical wounds but not from the mental ones. Somehow the dual demons of the shooting and his WW2 experiences drove him slowly to drink. He was a quiet drunk, not a rowdy one. He hung out in nice bars. His downward slide was slow, almost imperceptible, but just as real. Waitkus was out of baseball by 1955. He never found a second career and was dead by the age of 53. Why is "Baseball's Natural" worthwhile? Because it is a sensitive tale that grabs the reader's interest and holds it. It is a quick reading story. It is also quite well researched, with a wide range of supporting interviews and photographs. Many baseball books deal with the established stars; it's nice to read one that features an average guy. And because we sense that many players must have their own private demons that are invisible to the even the most devoted fan. At the time of this review, Baseball is officially in "hot stove" season, a perfect time to give "Baseball's Natural" a tryout.