front cover of The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club
The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club
An Illustrated History of the Best Little Semipro Baseball Team in Texas
By DJ Stout
University of Texas Press, 2010

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.


front cover of Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream
Marty Dobrow
University of Massachusetts Press, 2010
The rich slice of Americana found in minor league baseball presents a contradictory culture. On the one hand, the minors are filled with wholesome, family-friendly entertainment-fluffy mascots, kitschy promotions, and earnest young men signing autographs for wide-eyed Little Leaguers. On the other, they comprise a world of cutthroat competition in which a teammate's failure or injury can be the cause of quiet celebration and 90 percent of all players never play a single inning in the major leagues.

In Knocking on Heaven's Door, award-winning sportswriter Marty Dobrow examines this double-edged culture by chronicling the lives of six minor leaguers-Brad Baker, Doug Clark, Manny Delcarmen, Randy Ruiz, Matt Torra, and Charlie Zink-all struggling to make their way to "The Show." What links them together, aside from their common goal, is that they are all represented by the same team of agents-Jim and Lisa Masteralexis and their partner Steve McKelvey-whose own aspirations parallel those of the players they represent.

The story begins during spring training in 2005 and ends in the fall of 2008, followed by a brief epilogue that updates each player's fortunes through the 2009 season. Along the way Dobrow offers a revealing, intimate look at life in minor league baseball: the relentless tedium of its itinerant routines and daily rituals; the lure of performance-enhancing drugs as a means of gaining a competitive edge; the role of agents in negotiating each player's failures as well as his successes; and the influence of wives, girlfriends, and family members who have invested in the dream.

front cover of No Minor Accomplishment
No Minor Accomplishment
The Revival of New Jersey Professional Baseball
Golon, Bob
Rutgers University Press, 2008
America's pastime has roots in New Jersey dating back to 1846 when the first baseball game using modern rules was played on Elysian Fields in Hoboken. The sport thrived throughout the state until the 1950s when fans began to turn away from local competition, preferring to watch games broadcast on television, to take a trip to see a major league team in New York, or to frequent newly air-conditioned movie theaters or bowling alleys. By the early 1990s, however, a growing disenchantment with the high ticket prices and corporate atmosphere of Major League Baseball led to the revival of a purer form of the sport in the Garden State.

In No Minor Accomplishment, sports historian and New Jersey native Bob Golon tells the story of the state's baseball scene since the Trenton Thunder arrived in 1994. Drawing on interviews with team owners and employees, industry executives and fans, Golon goes behind the scenes to show how maintaining a minor league ball club can be a risky business venture. Stadiums cost millions to build, and a team full of talented players does not immediately guarantee success. Instead, each of the eight minor league and independent professional teams in the state must tailor themselves to the communities in which they are situated. Shrewd marketing is necessary to attract fans, but Golon also explains how, unlike Major League Baseball, the business aspect of the minor and independent leagues is not something the average spectator notices.  For the fans, baseball in New Jersey is wholesome, exciting family entertainment.

logo for University of Iowa Press
Small-Town Heroes
Images of Minor League Baseball
Hank Davis
University of Iowa Press, 1997

For many baseball fans, a major league game is a flickering image on a television screen or a story in a newspaper. Real baseball is played in their hometown, in a ballpark that seats 5,000 fans, not 50,000. The players wear uniforms like the ones seen on television, but their names are not household words—unless it happens to be summer and you are living in Bluefield, West Virginia, or Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Batavia, New York.

In 1993, ex-New Yorker Hank Davis put a successful career in psychology and music journalism on hold and went off on a loving odyssey through twenty-eight host towns in search of minor league baseball. Writing with beguiling charm and a firm knowledge of the game, he traveled the back roads of small-town Canada and America and found more than he bargained for: a wondrous cast of characters on the field, in the stands, and on the way to the ballpark. Davis recorded them with his splendid, incisive prose and his remarkable photographs. Along the way he encountered not only the baseball stars of the future, like Derek Jeter, Terrell Wade, and Tim Crabtree, but also a host of fascinating unknowns and longshots. They, too, have stories to tell that will not appear on the stat sheets.

With infectious energy, Davis also looked beyond the players. There are coaches, men in their forties and beyond, making arduous bus trips with players half their age. There are assistant general managers happy to scrub toilets and paint dugouts just to be close to the game. Kids sell Cracker Jacks in Bluefield, and grown-ups operate the mechanical bull at Durham Athletic Park.

Davis finds the small-town setting a universe unto itself. Within it, minor league baseball is lost in a time warp. Unabashedly unsophisticated, it has all the quirky charm of a traveling carnival—full of hawkers and gawkers and the unaffected simplicity of a concert in the park on a hot July night. Davis' full account of his baseball journey is rich with detail inside and outside the ballpark.


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