Back in the 1940s and 1950s, almost every small town in America had a baseball team. Most players were simply local heroes with a local following, but a few teams achieved fame far beyond their region. The Alpine Cowboys—despite being based in Texas's remote, sparsely populated Big Bend country—became a star in the firmament of semi-pro baseball. Lavishly underwritten by a wealthy rancher with a passion not only for baseball but even more for helping young men get a good start in life, the Cowboys played on a "field of dreams" whose facilities rivaled those of professional ballparks. Many Cowboys went on to play in the big leagues, and several pro teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and St. Louis Browns, came to play exhibition games at Kokernot Field.
The story of Herbert Kokernot Jr. and his Alpine Cowboys is a legend among baseball aficionados, but until now it has never been the subject of a book. DJ Stout, son of former Cowboys player Doyle Stout, presents a hall-of-fame-worthy collection of photographs, memorabilia, and reminiscences from Alpine Cowboys players, family members, and fans to capture fifteen years (1946–1961) of baseball at its finest. Nicholas Dawidoff's introduction, originally published in Sports Illustrated, tells the fascinating tale of "Mr. Herbert" and his determination to build a baseball team and ballpark that deserved to carry his ranch's 06 brand.
One of the most heartwarming episodes in the annals of the game, The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys is a fitting tribute to a man, a team, and a ballpark.
By DJ Stout
A sixth-generation Texan born in Alpine, DJ Stout is a partner in the international design firm Pentagram. From 1987 to 1999, he was the award-winning art director of Texas Monthly. During his tenure at the magazine, American Photo selected Stout as one of the "100 most important people in photography" because of the impressive body of original photographic works that he commissioned and art directed. In 2004 I.D. (International Design) magazine profiled Stout as one of its "Fifty American Designers."
Nicholas Dawidoff is an internationally acclaimed baseball expert and the author of four books. One of them, The Fly Swatter, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and his first book, The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, was a national bestseller and appeared on many best book lists. Dawidoff is also the editor of the Library of America's Baseball: A Literary Anthology.
"There is a legend of the wealthy Alpine cattle rancher who loved both the game of baseball and his hometown with such consuming passion that in 1947 he built what is quite possibly the world's most beautiful ballpark. It was an idea dusted with magic, a summertime daydream of a ball field, surrounded by a ten-foot-high fence of native red stone, with a lush Bermuda grass outfield, rows of rosebushes, a luxurious manager's bungalow behind third base, and a spectacular vista of the Davis Mountains rising beyond the fences. Like William Randolph Hearst's mansion, San Simeon, the Alpine ballpark was furnished with the choicest materials. Some 1,200 wooden chairs, complete with armrests and the ticket holders' names embossed on the backs, filled the bright green grandstand. The concession stands had roofs made of Spanish tile, and everywhere were wrought iron lanterns inlaid with baseball designs. Some of America's famed ballplayers—among them Satchel Paige, Norm Cash, and Gaylord Perry—played there from time to time. But what made all this unusual in terms of West Texas legends is that Kokernot Field is real—as real as its builder, Herbert Kokernot Jr.—and every bit of the story you are about to read is true."