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Posted on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

A salute to Ann Arbor author Alfred Slote and landmark sports novel 'Jake'

By Bob Needham

Sports TV giant ESPN has recently been releasing a series of short films called "30 for 30," and the newest entry focuses on an Ann Arbor author and a much-loved, though now out-of-print, novel for kids.

Both the book and the movie about it are called "Jake." The book, written by Ann Arbor's Alfred Slote and published in 1971, follows the story of a young African-American ball player in a Michigan town called Arborville. According to the movie, it's Slote's favorite of his own works, which include a number of sports and science-fiction novels for young readers.

In introducing the "30 for 30" short on his Grantland blog, sportswriter Bill Simmons recalls his appreciation for Slote's books growing up: "Once upon a time, I loved Alfred Slote so much that every bookstore trip unfolded the same way. I darted over to the kids' section, found Slote's baseball books bunched together on a shelf, became giddy for a split second, realized I owned every one of them, then begrudgingly searched for another book."

Slote, now 86, still lives in Ann Arbor. Both Bill Simmons' post and the short film are well worth your time; you can read Simmons' full post on Alfred Slote here. And the 10-minute "Jake" movie, directed by Jonathan Hock, can be seen with Simmons' post, or watch it below:

Bob Needham is director of entertainment content for Reach him at or 734-623-2541, and follow him on Twitter @bobneedham.


Deb Char

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

I lived just down the street from Mr. Slote and remember him well and quite fondly. I read and loved all his books and am hoping that my young son will be able to enjoy them as well! I remember interviewing him for a school report I did. This is a beautiful video and it touched me. Thanks for that!!

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

One of my fond memories as a kid was biking over to Slote's house, where we talked about Jake (it was his favorite and mine) and he signed my paperbacks. Still have them. I hope he's doing well. I'll definitely watch the 30/30 piece.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Great story.