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College World Series, Part 4: Omaha Impact, 1950-2020

After spending three weeks looking at the history and the people behind Omaha’s 70-year relationship with the College World Series, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the broader impact that the two entities have had on one another and where the relationship stands today.

The first installments cited some figures on the CWS’s modest beginnings, and some of the interviewees featured last week had memories of much smaller crowds in the early days. When Municipal Stadium was being built in the late 1940’s, no one had any idea that the stadium would one day house this national event. It was intended to serve as the home diamond for a local single-A team that didn’t even exist at the time. (The Cardinals wouldn’t start playing in Omaha until 1948.)

Construction for the stadium ran almost $300,000 over budget between 1945 and 1948, and Johnny Rosenblatt worked with the city to approve over $700,000 worth of bond issues to bring the stadium to completion. That’s equivalent to almost $10 million today!

It wasn’t always clear that Omaha would hold onto the title of host city. In 1950, rumors (albeit quickly silenced) began to circulate that the city might not be interested in hosting the following year.[1] In fact, the tournament lost money for ten of the years between 1950 to 1961. Four notable Omaha figures – Ed Pettis (of Brandeis fortune), Byron W. Reed, Morris Jacobs, and Johnny Rosenblatt – saw an investment opportunity and created the College World Series of Omaha, Inc.[2] By the early 1960s, it had become clear that the series could be a great boon for the city, and Omaha leaders and local businesses began to take an interest in guaranteeing that the Series remain in the city and that it turn a profit.

A 1964 article in the Omaha World-Herald reported that four years before, three days of rained-out games and low attendance at the series had resulted in a net loss for the year. By 1964, Omaha underwriters were putting up almost $50,000 to cover any series expenses not met by ticket sales. General Chairman John Diesing was quoted saying, “We’ll never run out of money…even if the rain lasts two months.”[3] One noted supporter of the series that year was Mutual of Omaha, who purchased 2,000 tickets to be used during the first week’s games.[4]

Relations between Omaha stakeholders and the NCAA were not always smooth – in the early 1960’s there were disagreements about the sale of beer at games, as well as the decision to schedule games on Sundays.[5]

But all the while, crowds grew bigger and bigger. In 1972, the College World Series anticipated seeing its millionth fan walk through the gates – that season’s slogan was “Looking Like a Million in ’72,” and in 1988, the championship game was televised for the first time on CBS.

1972 Program with caption: “Looking Like a Million in ’72”

The new TD Ameritrade Park, though perhaps lacking some of Rosenblatt’s charm, is – according to Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred, Jr. – considered “the best non-MLB facility in North America.” By 2014, cumulative CWS attendance at TD Park reached over 1.3 million – surpassing the millionth-fan milestone that was celebrated in 1972 in just four years.

Luckily for everyone involved, Omaha’s initial investment in building Muny Stadium and its bolstering of the early College World Series has turned into something truly incredible—a study commissioned by CWS of Omaha, Inc. in 2016 concluded that the CWS alone generates about $70 million for Omaha businesses each year.[6] Though the full extent of the effects of the 2020 CWS cancellation haven’t yet been seen, one thing can be sure – Omaha will see another year of great baseball and wonderful fans again next year and for many more years to come!

Muny Stadium


Rosenblatt Stadium, Image credit BVH Architects


TD Park, Image credit Sandhills Express


Natalie Kammerer

[1] “Los Angeles to Seek Tourney if Omaha Doesn’t Want It.” Omaha World-Herald. June 17, 1950.

[2] “CWS History.” CWS Omaha, Inc.

[3] “Despite Rain Problems, CWS Officials Still Hope to Top Crowd Mark of 52,757.” Ibid. June 17, 1950.

[4] “Mutual of Omaha Buys 2,000 – CWS Ticket Sales Show Increase.” Ibid. June 8, 1964.

[5] “Sunday Play Rule Eased – NCAA Sticks to Guns: No Beer at 1964 CWS.” Ibid. August 23, 1963.

[6] Healy, Joe. “’A Massive Blow:’ Omaha Feels Impact Of 2020 College World Series Cancellation.” Baseball America. March 18, 2020.

College World Series, Part 2: Rosenblatt Stadium, 1964-2010

Last week, we looked into the earliest days of the College World Series in Omaha – the first years from 1950-1963 during which the games where held at Omaha’s Municipal Stadium. These were formative years during which Omaha secured a national reputation as the host for the CWS.

But for most of the CWS’s 70-year history, the event as a whole, as well as the experience of attending a series game, has been associated with the iconic Rosenblatt Stadium. The Series was held at Muny Stadium until 1964, when it was renamed to pay homage to the man who had spearheaded its construction – and who was one of Omaha’s own top ball players himself.

Johnny Rosenblatt was born in Omaha on Christmas Day, 1907. He was a star baseball player at Tech High and went on to play under scholarship for the University of Iowa. He wasn’t able to finish his degree, but continued to play as a semi-professional outfielder under the name Johnny Ross. In the 1930’s, he worked as a salesman for Omaha’s Roberts Dairy while also playing on their company team.

Rosenblatt was certainly instrumental in bringing the construction Municipal Stadium to completion. He began his political career on a platform of finishing the project well, which evolved from serving as property commissioner, then street commissioner starting in 1948 to serving as mayor from 1954-1961. He was also a great advocate for Omaha baseball on a national level. In the 1950’s and 60’s, he secured contracts for Muny Stadium to house the St. Louis Cardinal’s AAA Omaha Cardinals team and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm team, the Omaha Dodgers.

In 1964, the city council voted unanimously to change the name of Municipal Stadium to Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. The dedication took place on June 28th of the same year, toward the end of the CWS festivities. Rosenblatt also threw the ceremonial first pitch of the series that year.

Rosenblatt at the stadium dedication dinner. Photo credit: Omaha World Herald

After looking at Omaha World Herald clippings from both the 1950 and 1964 coverage of the tournament, it’s interesting to observe the differences – in 1950, everything was new and no one had any precedent or idea what the CWS would become. There were even talks in the early 1950’s of moving the Series to another city. But as the tradition was built, each year’s sales and attendance numbers hit the previous year’s records out of the park. Last week it was mentioned that there were about 2,200 people at the opening game in 1950 – by 1963 the single-session record had climbed to 10,458 and the year’s total series attendance had topped out at 52,757.[1] Advance ticket sales in 1964 saw a 15% increase from the year before. Prices rose a bit too, but only to $1.50 for box seats. Children’s general admission stayed at a fairly accessible 50 cents.[2]

The 1964 series was one for the books in more ways than one – the Omaha World Herald reported that it was the “gol-dampest College World Series ever held.”[3] The whole segment, which appeared about a week after the Series opened, is a journalistic gem:

Omaha World Herald, June 18, 1964

In fact, there were so many rainouts that year that the teams spent much of the first week of the Series playing cards in their hotels, going to the movies, and having daily practice sessions in the Boys Town Field House.[4]

Headline: “Series to Resume When Players Grow Web Feet” Photo Credit: OWH S.J. Melingagio

Next week, we’ll focus more on what Rosenblatt Stadium meant to Omaha and CWS-goers from around the country, and the mutual impact produced by the close and long association between Omaha and the CWS.

[1] Williams, Robert. “Despite Rain Problems, CWS Officials Still Hope to Top Crowd Mark of 52,757.” Omaha World Herald, June 12, 1964.

[2] “CWS Ticket Sales Show Increase.” Ibid, June 8, 1964.

[3] Ibid, June 18, 1964.

[4] Frisbie, Al. “Series to Resume When Players Grow Web Feet.” Ibid, June 11, 1964.

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