June is just around the corner, and for the past 70 years, Omahans have expected the month to bring hordes of baseball fans flocking to town. This year’s cancellation of the College World Series has left thousands, both in Omaha and across the country, missing baseball in general and the CWS in particular. Over the next few weeks, we are going to look back on the history of the CWS in Omaha to see how the Series has evolved over the years and how it has shaped our city in turn.
For a handful of years between 1936 and 1948, Omaha had no baseball on any kind of scale. A fire destroyed the city’s League Park on 13th and Vinton, and World War II put a hold on any kind of replacement. Then the mid-1940’s saw an initiative to build a new ball park in Omaha – future mayor Johnny Rosenblatt and some of his friends spearheaded a movement to bring a AAA franchise to Omaha, but were at first turned down because Omaha didn’t have a good enough stadium. In the following years, Rosenblatt worked with the city to finance the construction of Municipal “Muny” Stadium. A 40-acre parcel at 13th and Deer Park Blvd was purchased for $17.00 and ground was broken in 1945. Construction would continue until 1948.
The men in this photograph served on the Municipal Stadium construction crew.
The Omaha Cardinals began their season in Muny Stadium in 1949. That same year, the park was also selected to host the American Legion World Series for 1949 and 1950. The next year, it was also selected to host the 1950 collegiate tournament, then called the National College Baseball Finals. The series had begun three years earlier in 1947, and in those first years, games had been played in Kalamazoo, Michigan and Wichita, Kansas.
When the athletic director for the University of Minnesota scouted the stadium in February of that year, he came away impressed and ready to recommend that it be used that summer. “This is the finest baseball park in America…Your Omaha civic leaders make it plain they want this meet to come here, and I will be frank in saying that I am ready to recommend that the meet be held in Omaha.”
Its first year in Omaha, the opening of the National College Baseball Finals generated quite a buzz. They reported about 2,200 spectators at the opening game on June 15 (for a bit of context, Rosenblatt’s final capacity was 23,145 seats, and TDA Park holds 24,000)! Box-seat tickets were sold in advance for $1.25 and bleacher seats were available on game day for 75 cents. The Omaha World Herald described the players as “hell-for-leather holler guys,” and both games on the opening day—Texas vs. Rutgers and University of Wisconsin vs. Colorado A&M—ended in upsets. Texas lost their first game, but went on to become the first champions of the Omaha tournament.
Texas star pitcher and 1950 National College Baseball Champion Jim Ehrler in action. Photo credit: Omaha World Herald, June 20, 1950.
A rainy weekend during the tournament raised questions of whether enough Omahans would come out to support the event, and there were rumors that the tournament might transfer to Los Angeles the following year. Fortunately, the coaches and NCAA officials agreed that bad weather and only one year’s precedent wasn’t enough to break with plans to return to Omaha the following year. The contract was renewed, and the College World Series would continue to be held at Omaha Stadium until 1964.
College World Series advertising, ca. 1960.
More next week on the stadium so many college baseball fans came to know and love from 1964 to 2010!
 Esser, Bruce. “Nebraska Minor League Baseball: Omaha Municipal Stadium, Rosenblatt Stadium” 2009. http://www.nebaseballhistory.com/muni.html.
 “Omaha Is Favored For Meet.” Omaha World Herald, February 10, 1950.
 “Meet Tickets To Go On Sale.” Ibid, June 2, 1950.
 “Schools Take The Loss.” Ibid, June 20, 1950.
 “Los Angeles To Seek Tourney If Omaha Doesn’t Want It.” Ibid, June 17, 1950.