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The True Story Behind The Natural

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The plot of The Natural (1984) may seem like something only Hollywood could invent, but as they say, the truth is often stranger than fiction: On June 14, 1949, a crazed fan lured a pro baseball player to her hotel room and shot him, point-blank, in the chest.

At first, 19-year-old Ruth Ann Steinhagen’s obsession with Philadelphia Phillies player Eddie Waitkus was your typical intense teenage infatuation—she had a little shrine to Waitkus in her bedroom and got the vapors the one time she managed to get close to him at a game. But there were signs that Steinhagen’s preoccupation was crossing into dangerous territory: She demanded that her mother set a place at the table for her favorite player every night, and taught herself how to speak Lithuanian, because his parents had emigrated from there.

Unable to stand it any longer, Steinhagen bought a rifle at a pawn shop, then booked three nights at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel, where the team was staying. After watching the Phillies trounce the Cubs at Wrigley Field, she went back to the hotel and paid a bellhop $5 to leave a note in Waitkus’s room. “It's extremely important that I see you as soon as possible. We're not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about. I think it would be to your advantage to let me explain it to you.” She provided a false name and her room number, and asked him to come as soon as possible.

Astonishingly, Waitkus called at 11:20 that night and said he was headed up to her room. When he entered, she was clutching a paring knife—but he didn’t notice. He walked past his stalker and sat down in a chair—and that’s when she reached for the rifle in the closet. “For two years, you’ve been bothering me,” she told him, “and now you’re going to die.”

Waitkus barely had time to ask what was going on before Steinhagen shot him. And then she comforted him, placing her hand over his and asking him where he had been hurt. Though Steinhagen had intended to commit suicide after killing her idol, instead, she called the hotel operator and reported her crime.

Waitkus’s right lung had collapsed; he required two blood transfusions and six operations, but he survived. When police brought his shooter to his hospital room for identification, he asked her why she did it. “I’m not sure,” she replied.

Steinhagen apologized at the trial and said she was still as in love with him as ever. “I have no compassion for her,” Waitkus said. “Furthermore, she ruined a $60 suit by shooting me through the coat.” A judge determined that the teen was insane; she was sent to Illinois's Kankakee State Hospital, where she underwent electroconvulsive therapy. After 33 months, she was deemed cured and released. Waitkus could have pressed charges once his would-be killer was declared sane, but he declined.

Sadly, though Waitkus survived the incident and even went on to play several more seasons of baseball, he still died young—he was just 53 when he succumbed to esophageal cancer in 1972. Ruth Ann Steinhagen survived him by 40 years, dying in 2012.

The incident inspired author Bernard Malamud to write The Natural in 1952; it was made into a film starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close in 1984.

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The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
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Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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