No One Knows Such Things
By: Jason Wojciechowski
John Fante’s Ask the Dust is a semi-autobiographical novel about a Depression-era Los Angeles-via-Colorado novelist named Arturo Bandini. He lives in an odd Bunker Hill apartment building, makes horrifying racist comments to a Latina waitress with whom he is infatuated (verbal pigtail-tugging), seems never to write but stumbles his way into publication anyway, and does not watch even one second of baseball.
This last bit makes some sense, seeing how Colorado was not much of a baseball hotbed in the 1920s, when Bandini would have been a lad at home. On the other hand, the PCL boasted two Los Angeles teams in the period: the Angels and the Hollywood Stars, both of whom played in Wrigley Field, on 42nd and Avalon in, broadly speaking, South Central Los Angeles. Had Bandini ceased his whining over not being recognized for the great genius he supposedly is for five minutes and hopped a trolley, he could have watched Denver’s own Ernest Holford “Dud” Lee picking it at shortstop for the Stars. Or maybe Ernest Dudley “Dud” Lee: It’s a matter of some dispute.
Which, finally, a point: The all-seeing eye of technological bureaucracy has wiped out elements of American life, of baseball life, like “we’re not sure what Dud Lee‘s real name is” just as surely as the plodding, crushing passage of time has wiped out Bandini’s five-cent downtown bar coffee and the total acceptance of his violent approach to the love of his life. You take the bad with the good: You get Giancarlo Stanton hitting 940-foot homers, but the trade-off is seeing precisely three defensive plays per game; you get deep, detailed information on every prospect and no-spect in every minor-league system, but the trade-off is a total elimination of the surprise and mystery that used to accompany a major-league debut.
Fante’s novel took its title from a line in another novel: “The other one he loved like a slave, like a crazed and like a beggar. Why? Ask the dust on the road and the falling leaves, ask the mysterious God of life; for no one knows such things.” How will Gleyber Torres perform in the majors? Ask the dust on the road, or ask a prospect maven. I’ll take the mystery.
By: Rachael McDaniel
You find yourself walking in the desert. You are alone. You do not know how you got there; you do not know how long you’ve been walking. You have no memory of anything before this. The sky and sand are infinite, everything, and you can see nothing but the gold and the blue and the heat shimmering off the dunes.
You keep walking.
After some time – perhaps minutes, perhaps hours – you see it. Something. Some dark discrepancy in the horizon. Your pace quickens. You squint, trying to make it out, and as you get closer, you realize that it is a person lying face-down in the sand.
Your heart clenches, and you break into a run. This is the first living thing that you can remember seeing. For all you know, this is the first living thing you have ever seen. After so long feeling nothing, thinking nothing, your mind is racing with possibilities. Did this person, too, find themselves alone in the desert? Will they be able to tell you anything about where you are, what has happened to you? You can see now that their chest is rising and falling – weak, but regular. They are alive.
“Hello!” you say, and your voice crackles with joy and relief. “Hello!”
The person raises their face to you – parched, sunburned, partially sand-encrusted. A pair of very dirty glasses is slid halfway up their forehead. It is me.
We regard each other silently for a moment, both unsure of how to proceed. After what seems like a small eternity, I open my mouth, with difficulty, to speak.
“Did you know…”
I cough – a harsh, dry sound.
“Did you know… that… Justin Smoak hit 38 home runs in 2017?” I croak.
It takes you a moment to process what I have just said. “What?”
“Pitchers and catchers report -” I break into another fit of coughs. “Pitchers and catchers report in 74 days.”
“Wh-” You shake your head violently, trying to understand. “What are you saying?”
Dragging myself forward with one arm, I inch closer to you, the other arm outstretched, dusty fingers curled. “Will you talk baseball with me?”
Your face falls.
You back away in horror – at first slowly, and then as fast as you can.
My face contorts into a broken frown. “Hey, where are you going?”
You turn your back and run.
You can still hear me calling behind you. “Hey, come back! Ohtani is going to be posted soon and some people keep saying he’s going to sign with the Yankees, but I think…”
You run until you can no longer hear the terrible voice, and you keep running after that, feet pounding, sliding into the sand, the sun beating down on your head, your labored breaths racking your bones. You run in desperation, in terror. You run, though you know there is nowhere to run to.
And as you run, you can feel tears running down your cheeks. You really are alone.