Vern Kohout
Baseball (2007)  

Born August 13, 1927 in Tacoma and passed away on November 23, 2018 in Sumner, WA. Vern Kohout developed into a standout pitcher for the Lincoln High Abes from 1943-45 under head coach Phil Sorboe. As a senior, Vern was captain of the team and was touted as one of the top pitchers in the state and participated in the All-American game between the State all-stars and the Seattle-Tacoma all-stars at Sick's Stadium. He was joined on the team by Tacoma's Jim McGoffin (SS), Stadium high outfielder Orv Harrelson, and Len Kalapus, Lincoln high infielder.

In 1947, after serving in the Navy, Vern was courted the by Brooklyn, St. Louis, Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Seals clubs. His older brother Bob was a pitcher in the Brooklyn organization and told him to sign with the Seals of the Pacific Coast League and make sure that they put into his contract that if he were ever sold to a Major League team that he would get a percentage of his sale price. Vern did just that.

Little did he know that he would enjoy the experience of a lifetime as Seals owner Paul Fagan flew the players to his 10,000-acre ranch on Maui for spring training. The closest Vern got to the Major Leagues were 10 games played against the New York Giants during the 1947 spring training with the Seals. Vern remembers playing the Giants five games in Honolulu and five games in San Francisco. Off the field, Vern got to meet Giants stars Mel Ott, Johnny Mize, Erne Lombardi, Walker Cooper, Buddy Kerr and many others.

Elliott Metcalf, venerable Tacoma Times Sports Editor, kept in touch with Vern while monitoring his career and received the following letter from Vern while the southpaw was training in Hawaii.

"Dear Elliott: At last I have some free time, so I thought I would drop you a few lines.

Our spring training camp at Hana, Maui, was out of this world. We were fifty miles from civilization but that was the least of our worries. Around us there were a few old shacks the island people lived in, a theater, a general store, and a barbershop. In the middle of this, down near the beach, Mr. Fagan has built a beautiful rest resort he calls Hotel Hana Ranch.

It is a place that would take honors among any of the hotels or auto courts here on the mainland. After turnout, which was from 9:00am to 12:00 noon, there was horseback riding, swimming, tennis, ping pong, pool and hiking.

The local people were very friendly to us. As you would walk down the street there was always a friendly hello. They stood around while we were practicing and were quite amazed. On Lefty O'Doul's 50th birthday they gave us a big luau. It's a huge feast where they bake a pig in the ground with potatoes around it.

The course also includes poi, which tastes like cement, raw fish, things that look like crickets and a coconut candy, so they call it.

While in Hawaii we stayed at the Moana hotel, bettered only by the Royal Hawaiian. The beach of Waikiki was only about 100 feet from my room. And the swimming and weather was perfect.

The Seals, while in spring training, lived like no other club in the history of baseball. We were treated like kings at all times. Mr. Fagan is a very generous person." Vern Kohout

Kohout was farmed out to the Salt Lake Bees for the 1947 season. In 31 games as a 19-year-old, Vern finished 13-10 with a 4.53 ERA. That earned him the nod as Salt Lake's opening day pitcher for the 1948 season. Also playing in the Pioneer League that season was another Tacoman, Stan Naccarato, who went 13-7 with 10 complete games and a 4.55 ERA in 182 innings for Ogden. Vern bested Stan in the hitting department with a .286 average compared to Naccarato's .141. Boise's Harry Nygard, another Pierce County native, led the league with a 1.97 ERA in 16 games.

During the 1948 season, Vern developed an elbow ligament problem that would have been fixed by "Tommy John" surgery if it had happened 30 years later. The 1949 season took Vern to the Chicago Cubs farm system at Visalia in the California League but ended with the Bremerton Blue Jackets in the Western International League. The 1950 season found him in Spokane to start and then LaMesa in the West Texas/New Mexico League.

After the 1950 season with LaMesa, Vern returned to finish his education and lined up a row of diplomas. He earned Bachelors ('52) and Masters ('55) degrees at the College of Puget Sound. In 1963, he completed his PhD in Education at the University of Wisconsin. Vern spent 25 years overseas with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools. He worked at schools in Verona, Italy; Karlsruhe, Germany; London, England (twice); Athens, Greece; Naples, Italy; Madrid, Spain and Okinawa, Japan. He also worked in the Raymond, Olympia and Tacoma schools.

Back in Tacoma, Vern played and managed in the Valley League and City League for several years including championship seasons with Busch's Drive-In (1952), Stanley Shoemen (1955), Western State (1955) and the Cheney Studs (1957).

"Most of all, the highlights of my baseball career from junior leagues to the pros to coaching center around all of the great people that I had the privilege to get to know along the way," Vern said.

Vern was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Tacoma-Pierce County Baseball-Softball Oldtimers Hall of Fame in Francisco, Kohout pitched for the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pioneer League, the Visalia Cubs of the California State League, the Bremerton Blue Jackets and Spokane Indians of the Western International League, and the LaMesa Lobos of the West Texas-New Mexico League.
After leaving pro baseball, he returned to Tacoma where he played Tacoma City League and Valley ball for Busch’s Drive-In and Cheney Studs in 1951-52. Doug McArthur started the Busch’s Drive-In team, and Kohout joined up as a player-coach.
Kohout taught in the Raymond Public School system from 1952-54 and also coached baseball in 1953-54. Prior to that, he spent a year coaching baseball at College of Puget Sound, from where he earned his degree.
Kohout stayed in the education field, teaching in the Olympia and Tacoma school systems and also serving as an adjunct professor at Central Washington State College. From 1964-90 he was an administrator for the United States Dependents Schools in regions throughout the world. He was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Baseball-Softball Oldtimers Hall of Fame in 1992.