Eddie Waitkus and "The Natural": What is Assumption? What is Fact?

By Rob Edelman

This article was published in the 2013 The National Pastime.

Eddie Waitkus, the Fightin’ Phillies first-sacker, is best remembered not for his 182 hits and .284 average on the 1950 National League pennant-winners and not for any other on-field accomplishment. Instead, his name is inexorably linked to the plight and fate of the central character in an all-time classic baseball novel. One might imagine that The Natural—written by Bernard Malamud and published in 1952—is unadulterated fiction, while the 1984 screen adaptation is a baseball fantasy with a literary origin. However, a question that has long intrigued aficionados and scholars . . .

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