It’s probably appropriate that the first book I cover in the Hawkeye Book Review is one that I drew upon during the writing of my most recent book: Slater of Iowa.

Slater of Iowa

Slater of Iowa - Duke Slater book

Book Details

Title: Slater of Iowa
Author: James Andrew Peterson, a Chicago lawyer and president of Hinckley & Schmitt bottling company
Publication Year: 1958
Publisher: Hinckley & Schmitt
Number of pages: 42 pages
Where to buy: Purchase link

Book Description

From 1934-1976, the Chicago College All-Star Game pitted an all-star team of college football stars against that year’s defending NFL champions.  It was an intriguing game during this time period when college football was actually more popular than the professional version.

James A. Peterson, a Chicago businessman, added to the festivities.  Beginning in 1938, Peterson organized an annual luncheon the weekend of the game that would honor a football star of the past.  In the early days of the sport of football, this luncheon served as one of the few opportunities where legends of the past could get together and reminisce about the history of the game.

Peterson added another tweak to these luncheons in 1954 – each year, the honoree would be presented with a self-published book honoring his life in football.  Peterson produced six of these special football books from 1954-1959:

1954 – Gipp of Notre Dame

1955 – Thorpe of Carlisle

1956 – Grange of Illinois

1957 – Eckersall of Chicago

1958 – Slater of Iowa

1959 – Four Horsemen of Notre Dame

Today these books are quite scarce.  Michael Moran wrote an article with great background information on the Peterson series of books.  As you can see, the fifth book in this series is about Duke Slater, the former Hawkeye star.

Positives

Slater of Iowa was published in conjunction with the 1958 Peterson luncheon held in honor of Slater.  Several of Slater’s teammates, coaches, and opponents attended the luncheon, and many of them are quoted in the book.  Their stories and recollections are the highlights of Slater of Iowa.

Clinton Osborne, Slater’s first coach, noted that he saw Duke’s ability from his very first high school practice in 1913.  The descriptions of Iowa’s 1919 games against Illinois and Chicago are entertaining to read thanks to quotes from Iowa quarterback Bill Kelly and Chicago lineman Charles McGuire.  Notre Dame’s Hunk Anderson and Roger Kiley and former Illinois star Jim McMillen also chimed in, describing what it was like to go up against Slater in his senior season in 1921.

The most significant contributor to Slater of Iowa was Hawkeye star Aubrey Devine.  Devine first faced Slater in the 1914 Iowa High School Championship Game, when his West Des Moines High team tied Slater’s Clinton squad.  Aubrey described the ending of that game in the book, and later he praised his teammate as one of the stars of the undefeated 1921 Hawkeye team.  He also added a few thoughts about their mutual college coach, Howard Jones.  Aubrey Devine was an opinionated guy who didn’t pull any punches, so it’s great to get his input here.

These first-hand accounts are great and serve as the strength of the book.  Slater of Iowa is a very easy and entertaining read.

Negatives

One of the biggest drawbacks of Slater of Iowa is that it’s an easy and entertaining read, but it’s also a very short read.  You could probably read it cover to cover in an hour or two.  The book is generously listed at a length of 42 pages, but it only has about 30 pages of actual text.  As such, it only hits a few of the major highlights of Duke’s football career…and it even misses many of those.  Slater of Iowa is far from a comprehensive look at Duke Slater’s life, although to be fair, it probably was never designed to be.

Another problem with Slater of Iowa is that it focuses exclusively on Duke’s high school and college football career, ignoring everything he did after 1921.  That’s understandable, given that pro football was far less popular than college football when the book was released in 1958.  Still, Slater was a groundbreaking athlete with the Rock Island Independents and then with the Chicago Cardinals, and neither his NFL career nor his legal career are mentioned once in the book.  Long story short, Duke Slater accomplished a lot in his life after age 24 that is completely omitted from Slater of Iowa.

Perhaps most importantly, Slater of Iowa has long been out of print.  Scarce copies of the book currently sell for $150 or more, which is very pricey for the amount of material you actually get.

Hawkeye Book Review Rating

Price does factor into these review ratings, and Slater of Iowa is an expensive purchase.  I hate to say it, but I can’t think of a single reason why someone would need to shell out over 100 dollars for this book.  At the risk of self-promoting, the book Duke Slater is a much more comprehensive (and cheaper) look at Slater’s life, and all of the best stories and quotes from Slater of Iowa are used in the new book.  If there ever had been a reason to drop that much money on Slater of Iowa, there certainly isn’t one now.

Hawkeye Book Review Rating: 3.5 (For diehard fans only)

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