The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club by DJ Stout
Book Review By Marc Burckhardt
I’ll admit it up front: DJ Stout is a friend. We live and work not far from each other here in Austin, Texas, have collaborated on many projects together over the years, and have had our fair share of drinks together at the local Elks Lodge, too. But I don’t let that cloud my judgment, and you shouldn’t let it cloud yours either: this is a beautiful story about an amazing chapter in Texas sports history, and DJ’s desire to tell it has nothing to do with graphic design. And that’s exactly why every person with a story worth telling should own a copy.
Judge This Book By Its Cover.
The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club (University of Texas Press) has long been known among ardent baseball fans but until now it has never been the subject of a book or feature film.
Pentagram’s Ageless Wonder: DJ.
In 1946 Herbert Kokernot, owner of the colossal Kokernot 06 Ranch in West Texas, decided to channel his passion for baseball by taking over the Alpine Cats, a small-time semi-pro ballclub in Alpine, TX. Kokernot, or Mr. Herbert as he preferred, did nothing half ass. Soon, he and his money ($1.25M) transformed a dessert patch into a ballpark palace and an unknown team into the envy of America. Both the park and the club were beauties to behold.
DJ’s interest in the subject goes back before he was even born—in fact, it’s literally in his genes: his father Doyle Stout was a talented young pitcher with the Cowboys from 1952-1954. DJ was born in Alpine in 1957, and raised hearing stories of form his father about the team. But what starts out as a personal and heartfelt account of his father’s experience broadens into a pictorial history of an otherwise unsung amateur baseball team, and its astonishing rise and fall. The quality of writing and depth of research go well beyond a simple memoir, and DJ’s eye for great photography is put to use with a wealth of photos by Charles Hunter, who documented the Cowboys for roughly 15 years. He also brings in the big guns with a stellar introduction by Nicholas Dawidoff, whose credentials as a baseball historian are unsurpassed, and whose biographical profiles provide a solid backbone for the book. This combination of personal reflections and wonderful photographic and historic detail give a depth to the book that transcends the average baseball story.
Kokernut (Center) With the Alpine Cowboys.
Of course it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the design of this book is stunning—we’re talking about DJ Stout, a Pentagram Partner and the famed former Art Director of Texas Monthly, after all—but the surprise in the Alpine Cowboys is the story itself, which tells the tale of American Exceptionalism through the lens of big oil, big money, and big dreams, as well as the extraordinary athletes, hard work, and just plain dumb luck that gave it its momentum. What begins as a story of pluck and determination turns into a fable of the fall from Grace, as the pressures of professional success weigh on a group of young men who began playing for the simple joy of the game.
But there’s more to the book than just the richness of its narrative, the unique setting, and the wonderful characters and images. There’s a touching undercurrent about the relationship between a father and son, one that brings a personal aspect to this effort and provides it with emotional depth. And there’s the renewed sense of challenge this successful designer brings to his writing that should be an inspiration to all creative souls.
Doyle Stout, DJ’s Father Was a Southpaw.
Despite his staggering accomplishments in the world of graphic design, art direction and publishing, he continues to set new goals, and like the players he writes about, he’s made his dreams a reality. DJ recently told me that, “Having my name on the cover of this book as an author means a lot to me”, and I believe that pride extends beyond his personal connection with the content to his desire to face new challenges in his own life. I believe that’s what this book is really about—and something that should resonate with any creative professional.
Knowing DJ, my guess is this book is just the beginning of that effort—one that offers different creative challenges and an even larger audience for his personal vision. I fully expect another book from him, perhaps with even more emphasis on his talents as a writer, and maybe even melding pictures and storytelling through film. The material in this book certainly lends itself to that.
As you can probably tell, I’ve got a great deal of respect for the author whose name is on the cover of this book. I’ve come to admire not just the remarkable things he’s done, but more importantly the things he still wants to take on. His narrative in this book emphasizes that dreams are worth pursuing, and that every goal should be approached with a sense of joy as well as hard work. It’s a spirit that represents the best of what it is to be creative, and it’s captured beautifully in The Amazing Tale of Mr. Herbert and His Fabulous Alpine Cowboys Baseball Club. I hope it inspires you to find your own Field of Dreams.
Build It and They Will Come… Ballpark in the High Desert.
About the Reviewer: Marc Burckhardt lives in Austin, TX with his wife Janice and their beloved Miniature Schnauzer, Gertie. Marc has won countless industry awards for his work while serving legendary brands and individuals as diverse as Johnny Cash and Captain Kangaroo. Marc is one of those rare people who loves doing what he does, operating out of sun-filled studio inside his home just off the kitchen. Lucky man? Good, hard working, resourceful people make their own good luck. Read all about him at: http://www.marcart.net/bio1.html
Herr Burckhardt auf Austin, TX. Prosit!