[George Covington is a local photographer, columnist and celebrity whom people from all walks of life treasure as an inspiration. Born legally blind, with less than ten percent of normal vision, George first achieved national attention for using photography as a seeing tool. Read more of his thoughts at the Alpine Avalanche.]
Hide the women and children and prepare for an invasion of the high Chihuahuan desert by a hoard of Damn Yankees. I don’t mean tourists or the usual bands of misfits from the north who like to hide in our pleasant part of paradise. Actually, they’re not all real Yankees, but a bunch of actors who will portray on stage the vile, infamous, and much unloved New York Yankees baseball team.
The much-loved musical comedy opened on Broadway May 5, 1955, and ran for 1,019 performances. Based on the best-selling novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop, the play marks the 45th year of the Theatre of the Big Bend. A joint venture of the theatre program of Sul Ross State University and surrounding communities, the play is directed by Dona Roman, FON (Force Of Nature). The lovely and ever personable Ms. Roman’s last musical comedy triumph was “The Will Rogers Follies”. [You can purchase tickets by visiting the ToBB website.]
The story is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The devil offers to answer the failed dreams of Joe (think everyman) for the mere price of his soul. The devil also throws in the tempting charms of a seductress named Lola. I realize that many of the truly manly men of the Big Bend could never relate to succumbing to the charms of a beautiful woman, booze, and fame, but remember Yankees are weaker men.
For you sports hogs who reject every attempt by your significant other to inject a little culture into your daily lives, you can combine both. Your ticket stubs from “Damn Yankees” will get you two bucks off tickets to a Cowboys baseball game. The reverse is true. A ticket stub from a Cowboys game will get you two bucks off a “Damn Yankees” ticket.
Alpine has a long history of both theatre and baseball. While this is only the second year for the cowboys in Alpine, their history goes much further back.
Kokernot Field is located only a few hundred yards from the “Damn Yankees” stage. Referred to by “Sport’s Illustrated” and many other publications as the “The Best Little Ballpark in Texas”, it was constructed in 1947. The story behind the ballpark could be turned into a theatrical piece itself. Herbert L. Kokernot Jr., Big Bend area cattle rancher and philanthropist who built the stadium, never minded being considered an eccentric baseball fan. In today’s money, he would have spent more than 10 million dollars. Chris Lacey, grandson of the late Herbert L. Kokernot Jr., said, “The way I understand it, Herbert Sr. told Herbert Jr., ‘Son, all I ask is that if you’re going to do it, do it right’”, and everyone agrees- he did it right.
Resembling a miniature Wrigley Field, the stadium was built with volcanic rock, and it’s exterior has large white marble inlays representing Kokernot’s O6 ranch brand. Red Georgia clay was hauled some 1,200 miles by rail to Alpine just to build the infield. Although larger than many major league fields, it seats less than 1,000. During its glory years of the early 1950’s, it hosted a number of baseball greats, such as Satchel Paige, Gaylord Perry, and Johnny Podres.
So, saddle up and prepare to soak up a summer’s worth of sports and culture. Believe me, it won’t hurt a bit.