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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 3: Farewell to the Blatt, 2010

As every college baseball fan knows knows – and the past two weeks’ blogs have shown – the College World Series would not be what it is today without the stadium that saw the CWS grow into a national phenomenon. During its 60 years as host stadium (1950-2010), first as Municipal Stadium and then Rosenblatt, the Blatt itself grew to become a dear local treasure and revered national icon.

Conversations about building a new stadium began as early as 2003, and were met with strong criticism from many. A “Save Rosenblatt” campaign was launched in 2007 that produced a TV commercial featuring Kevin Costner. The official recommendation to build a new stadium was ultimately announced in 2008.

As part of the Douglas County Historical Society’s initiative to actively collect and document history in the making, representatives attended events at the 2010 College World Series – the last at Rosenblatt – and recorded interviews from fans. Today, we would like to focus on the words of the Omahans and fans from around the country who shared wonderful memories of the CWS and Rosenblatt Stadium.

The crew was lucky enough to get some really wonderful, unique memories and stories from people who had grown up around Rosenblatt in its early days and have childhood memories of older versions of the stadium before its renovations:

Angie talks about her memories of playing under Rosenblatt’s wooden bleachers in the 1970’s.

Bill remembers working at the stadium as a vendor in the 1970’s and watching the scoreboard from his backyard.

Jerry has memories all the way back to the 1952 CWS. He played at Rosenblatt as a child, and has seen all kinds of greats come through the stadium.

Sue recalls sitting in the bleachers along the third baseline and dangling her feet into the infield during games.


They also ran into people who had histories even more closely intertwined with the stadium:

Donna – remember the news article on Franck Mancuso last week? Donna was his wife, and tells about how he would sleep at the stadium during the CWS in case he needed to pull the tarp in the middle of the night.

Doug sold programs and he and his father each ran the scoreboard for the CWS from 1960-1989.

Frank came to Omaha in 1960 and 1961 as a shortstop and third baseman for Boston College.

Marylin’s husband is the official scorer for the CWS, and her children would work the Series and live at Donna Mancuso’s house.

One aspect that was reiterated over and over throughout the interviews was the kind of special camaraderie that existed at Rosenblatt games. Several people shared amazing stories about coming to a game and being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people:

Bob’s daughter needed a transplant, and had seats near someone who knew the brother of the head of the transplant center here in Omaha.

Ryan was offered a free ticket to the game of a lifetime by a stranger.

Sherri has built a “second family” of Texas fans over the years.

Valerie has experienced a couple of small-world coincidences at Rosenblatt..

Some of the most powerful interviews came from newcomers who had never attended a game in person before. They had come in 2010 because it was Rosenblatt’s last year and they wanted to experience the legendary atmosphere while they could:

Barb came from Chicago to see the stadium, and wishes she could keep coming back.

Holly knew the stadium very well from pictures, so seeing Rosenblatt was like visiting a historical landmark.

[Name not stated] This interviewee didn’t give his name, but he had to make the “pilgrimage” to Rosenblatt, and seeing the stadium was an emotional experience.

Next week will be our final installation to this month-long series on the CWS. We’ll have a look at the newest history that’s been made at TD Ameritrade Park and provide a wider view of the relationship between Omaha business and the College World Series.

Rosenblatt left Field: Photo Credit BVH Architects


College World Series, Part I: Omaha Municipal Stadium, 1950-1963

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.[1] 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.”[2]

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.[3] 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,[4] and there were rumors that the tournament might transfer to Los Angeles the following year.[5] 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.

CWS Program and scorebook.

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!

Natalie Kammerer

[1] Esser, Bruce. “Nebraska Minor League Baseball: Omaha Municipal Stadium, Rosenblatt Stadium” 2009.

[2] “Omaha Is Favored For Meet.” Omaha World Herald, February 10, 1950.

[3] “Meet Tickets To Go On Sale.” Ibid, June 2, 1950.

[4] “Schools Take The Loss.” Ibid, June 20, 1950.

[5] “Los Angeles To Seek Tourney If Omaha Doesn’t Want It.” Ibid, June 17, 1950.



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