For everyone who loves baseball, here is the fascinating true story of a West Texas rancher and the field of dreams he built for his championship-winning team, told by renowned baseball writer Nicholas Dawidoff and illustrated with a trove of rare historical photographs, memorabilia, and reminiscences.
Series: Clifton and Shirley Caldwell Texas Heritage Endowment, Number Fifteen
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.
- Foreword. My Father's Left Arm, by DJ Stout. How my dad became a Cowboy and rode off into college—and life.
- Introduction. The Cowboys of Summer, by Nicholas Dawidoff. The tale of Mr. Herbert and the Best Little Ballpark in Texas.
- 1946. When the Cats got their Cowboy hats. The legend begins in a dilapidated park of scrap wood and chicken wire.
- 1947. He built it and they came. Kokernot Field makes its debut and the Cowboys take their first train ride to Wichita.
- 1948. Manager Ray McNeill leads his band of brothers into a year of hairy exhibition games and New Jersey Kokernots.
- 1949. The Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Browns ride into town and the Cowboys get dressed up for the National tourney.
- 1950. Chuck Devereaux and Tom Chandler lead their new class of "Collegiate Cowboys" to a dramatic NBC championship.
- 1951. The Cowboys skip the annual NBC tournament in El Paso, stop to honor Mr. Herbert, then hit their stride in Houston.
- 1952. Tom Chandler takes charge of the "El Paso-Alpine Cowboys" who win their fourth SW title and fortify for Wichita.
- 1953. Mr. Herbert is honored as the "Sponsor of the Decade" and the Cowboys win the El Paso tourney for the sixth time.
- 1954. The Milwaukee Braves hold classes in Alpine, the Cowboys sit one out, and appreciate baseball back on home turf.
- 1955. The season opens with a "Giant" first pitch, then a "Grand" tournament in Colorado, and ends in "Grande" style.
- 1956. The 1956 season marks the Alpine Cowboys first decade of semipro baseball and Mr. Herbert spiffs the place up.
- 1957. Gaylord Perry joins the youngest squad of Cowboys players ever and the National N.A.I.A tourney plays in Alpine.
- 1958. New lights are installed at Kokernot Field but at season's end the lights go out for the semipro Alpine Cowboys.
- 1959. The new pro "Big Bend-Davis Mountains Cowboys" touchdown in Alpine with a bunch of "Yanks" from Boston.
- 1960. A new squad of Cowboys begin their second year of professional ball but meanwhile back at the O6 Ranch...
- 1961. The Alpine Cowboys reach the end of a long road. It's the last year of an amazing era but the dream lives on.
“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.”