This blog was originally posted on Omaha.com’s Viewfinder blog. It offers a look at the early years of the eventual home of the College World Series, Omaha’s Municipal Stadium (which opened in 1948). It was renamed Rosenblatt Stadium in 1964. See a complete history of the College World Series tournament here, and check out Omaha.com’s CWS page here.
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I had planned to do a blog on Rosenblatt Stadium and was so excited about all the images we have on hand that I could only narrow down my choices to a mere 101 photos!
That would have been interesting but a tad too long, so instead I decided on blogs based on different themes. Among them: Municipal Stadium’s early years, the College World Series and fans and fun.
Today’s post deals with the early years, when Rosenblatt was Omaha’s Municipal Stadium.
Municipal Stadium was built to replace the Western League Park, which burned to the ground in 1936, in hopes of bringing professional baseball back to Omaha. Omaha’s team, the Robin Hoods, had moved to Rock Island, Ill., after the fire.
Above is the architect’s 1945 rendering of the front gate. Did you notice that it was originally referred to as Omaha Memorial Stadium?
This 1946 rendering shows how the stadium would be configured for football, with portable bleachers in right field. This drawing ran in The World-Herald on July 30, 1950, with a story about the New York Yanks-Chicago Bears football game.
Construction began on Nov. 22, 1945. Observing the tree felling are, from left, Public Improvements Commissioner Arthur J. Weaver; grading superintendent Pete Jacobson; architect Leo A. Daly; and O.H. Johnson, general manager of the Carlson Co.
Workers install stadium seats on Sept. 9, 1948. The stadium cost almost $1 million and held about 10,000 people.
Omaha Mayor Glenn Cunningham addresses the crowd in a pregame dedication program at Municipal Stadium on Oct. 17, 1948.
The Oct. 18, 1948, World-Herald described this photo of the first game: “Omaha’s new Municipal Stadium is packed for opening attraction. … All eyes are on Richie Ashburn as the Phillies’ rookie bats in the first inning.” The All-Stars, a group of Omaha and Nebraska professional players, beat the Omaha Storz team 11-3.
At the first game, from left: Steve Rosenblatt; Rex Barney; Bob Hall, owner of the Omaha Cardinals; Duce Belford, Brooklyn Dodgers scout and Creighton athletic director; Richie Ashburn, a native of Tilden, Neb.; Johnny Rosenblatt; and Johnny Hopp of Hastings, Neb.
There were several minor leagues in Omaha through the years, but only two minor league teams called Municipal Stadium home. The St. Louis affiliate Cardinals played there from 1949 to 1959 and the Los Angeles affiliate Dodgers in 1961 and 1962. In 1969, a few years after the stadium was renamed, the Kansas City Royals began play and placed a minor-league affiliate by the same name in Omaha. I’ll touch on that in a future blog post.
I thought all the Omaha team nicknames through the years were interesting and kind of fun. The team names include: Mashers, 1879; Omahogs, periodically between 1885 and 1901; Omahas, 1890; Lambs, 1891; Indians, 1902-1903; Rangers, 1904; Rourkes, 1905-1920; Buffaloes, 1921-1927; Crickets, 1928-1929; Packers 1930-1935; Robin Hoods, 1936; Cardinals, 1947-1959 (though the team played in Council Bluffs during the construction of Municipal Stadium); Dodgers, 1961-1962; Royals, 1969-1998; Golden Spikes, 1991-2001; Royals, 2002-2010.
In this 1951 photo, Cardinal players Nick Adzick, left, and Harvey Zernia sign autographs during batting practice. The girls are, from left, Barbara Guzick, Shirley Kurtz, Virginia Jacobsen, Mary Ann Vlcek and Judy Krajicek.
Check out these cheerleaders for the 1951 Cardinals. The OMAHA line, from left: Maureen DeCabooter, Barbara Greenberg, Sally Johnson, Linda Arey and Mary Jean Belitz. The CARDS line, from left: Sharon Allard, JoAnn Burnham, Pat Dow, Kathy Faulk and Mona Johnson.
Pitchers for the Omaha Dodgers in 1961. From left: Phil Brown, Ron Perranoski, Dick Scott and Bob Wasko.
The stadium grew in popularity through the years. Pictured above is the overflow crowd at a 1951 exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Omaha Cardinals. Fans sat along the foul lines during the game. When that spaced was filled, the spectators were allowed to line the warning track. General admission tickets were only 90 cents!
Of course, you can’t attend a ballgame without peanuts and Cracker Jack, and the concession stand was part of the “Muny” experience. Above, Mrs. John Novak puts a few dogs on the grill for early arrivals and checks out paper cups from concessions manager Bill Kamarasky. Beer was provided by local breweries until 1953, when Anheuser-Busch assumed the stadium lease.
Now here’s something you don’t see too often at a baseball game! Omaha Dodgers manager Danny Ozark, who went on to manage the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants, was quite a character. The cow-milking contest between Ozark and Houston manager Harry Craft occurred at a fan appreciation day in 1961.
Another interesting photo…
No, hunting was not a sport or exhibition at Municipal Stadium. After the stadium opened, there was a terrible problem with birds nesting on the roof. Several attempts were made to eliminate them, but none were successful until seven years later when the city installed aluminum mesh over the steel girders. In this 1950 photo, maintenance man Eddie Awalt tries shooting at the birds to scare them off. It didn’t work.
This is the July 24, 1950, wedding of second basemen Howard Phillips and bride Shirley. The ceremony was performed at home plate.
Look for at least three more blog posts on Rosenblatt. But if you can’t wait, you can find more photos and the stories behind them in our book “Rosenblatt Stadium: Omaha’s Diamond on the Hill.” The book is wonderfully and lovingly written by our very own Steve Pivovar.
Next blog: Rosenblatt, 1960-1990!