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Thursday, October 25, 2012

30 for 30 Short: Jake (The Alfred Slote Fan Club)

Jake featured a haunting cover: a drawing of a young African American baseball player staring somberly ahead, a bat resting on his right shoulder, looking like he’s posing for a card in Topps’ special “Little League Players With Depressing Family Situations” series. The boy was named Jake Wrather, a brash Little League catcher who lived with his semi-negligent uncle Lenny, an aspiring musician who frequently left Jake to fend for himself. I loved Jake so much that, when I was in the fifth grade, I tried to adapt it into a play and wrote nearly a dozen scenes before giving up. What possessed a 10-year-old child to write a school play about a fictional Little League baseball player? I don’t know. Why did I quit before I finished? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I wanted to see Jake come to life. Maybe I wanted to be friends with him. Maybe I realized it wasn’t working, and maybe I gave up.

And as it turned out, I totally underestimated Hock. Over the summer, he chased down an 85-year-old retired author in Ann Arbor, brought a camera crew and hoped something good would happen. A few weeks later, a rough cut of his next short film landed in my e-mail box without warning. I clicked on the link. There he was … the great Alfred Slote. Talking about Jake. Talking about writing. Talking about life. I can’t explain how much that 10 minutes meant to me, so I won’t even try. But watching one of my favorite writers bring his favorite book back to life while figuring out if his career ultimately meant anything — when it did, it did, it did — was practically an out-of-body experience.

Just want to say that “My Father, The Coach” (also a Slote book)  was far and away my favorite baseball book as a kid.  For a few years if my family went somewhere that book had to be packed because it would keep my quiet and content on the plane or in the car.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: October 25, 2012 at 01:45 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: 30 for 30, baseball books, bill simmons

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   1. AndrewJ Posted: October 25, 2012 at 03:02 PM (#4283167)
As a kid I remember liking Slote's Tony and Me, which was a very moralisitc Afterschool Special-esque story about shoplifting. Slote named one of the characters in Matt Gargan's Boy, which was published in 1975 after The Boss bought the Yankees, George Steinbrunner, curiously enough.
   2. Dangerous Dean Posted: October 25, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4283169)
I read a lot of those sports books when I was a kid in the 70s. I don't think I ever read Slote. I will look for Jake so that my son can read it with me.
   3. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: October 25, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4283173)
I don't remember Alfred Slote, probably because I was busy reading every Matt Christopher book 50 times.
   4. AndrewJ Posted: October 25, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4283213)
I also remember liking Barbara Cohen's Thank You, Jackie Robinson, about a relationship between a precocious (probably borderline-Asperger's) white boy and elderly black man who follow the Dodgers in 1947, and Jonah Kalb's The Goof That Won the Pennant, about an underacheiving Little League team who eke out a title (thanks to a Fred Merkle-like play in the deciding game)...
   5. morineko Posted: October 25, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4283257)
It's kind of funny; I only read Slote's baseball novels after I had read all his juvenile SF novels.

(and I only read the Christophers with sfnal elements)

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