Players like Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth inspired America to endure the Great Depression, but with the season kicking off tonight, can overpaid and steroid-ridden players still mean something in hard times? Eric Spitznagel hits the spring training circuit for Vanity Fair to find out—and puts the question to feverish fans, blank-eyed players, and gob-spitting managers. "It inevitably comes back to just one thing," Spitznagel writes: "Daddy."
Yes, that Field of Dreams emotional bond is still the soothing ointment of America's game. But then Spitznagel spots a player signing a ball for an irritating fan, and he wonders if that's baseball heroism, to tolerate our "obnoxious sense of entitlement." Finally he is enlightened by the sight of a fan who stubbornly refuses to leave during a downpour. "This is baseball’s true recession metaphor, and it has nothing to do with the players," Spitznagel writes. "I just can't decide of it's a good thing."