by Paul Fiarkoski
Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience the college world series at Rosenblatt stadium still remember, and long for, the glory days. Check out the slideshow and descriptions below.
Home runs: lots of them.
An average of two per game in each of the last ten years of the CWS at the Blatt. That meant lots of runs each game, and lots of excitement. Some people refer to it as the Gorilla Ball era.
Tailgating: An all-day affair.
Fans from all over the country, especially Louisianna, used to fill the air with the aroma of hardwood smoke and deep-friers at the crack of dawn in order to serve up the goods for pre-game, post-game and post-post-game celebrations. According to lore, adult beverages were consumed too.
Old-school organist: Lambert Bartak.
Mostly impromptu, always upbeat, the tunes pumped out of Bartak’s organ became a trademark of Rosenblatt Stadium. He is reportedly the only organist to be booted from a game by an umpire. His crime? Playing the Mickey Mouse club tune as the umps discussed a call. Lambert joined Johnny Rosenblatt in heaven in 2013.
Foul ball girls: Cute, fit, entertaining.
Whenever a ball was foul tipped up behind homeplate, one of these teenaged dolls would quickly scoot out and face the backstop, and the crowd, to catch it, almost always to a rousing applause from the crowd. When they dropped one, good-natured boos would result.
Flamingos: Bagged and tagged. An annual tradition at the Blatt. Tailgaters kicked off the series with 8 plastic flamingos – one for each team in the tournament. When a team was sent home, the corresponding bird was covered with a black pillow case-like bag.
Free enterprise: Locals turned entrepreneurs. The residents around Rosenblatt were notorious for adding to the atmosphere. Sure, they’d ask for a few bucks so you could park in their yard or cold drinks. But in return you got what you paid for plus great hospitality and a story or two. Greg Pivovar earned celebrity status for giving away beer to patrons of his Stadium View sports memorabilia shop.
Zesto: A cool treat worth waiting for.
Sure, there’s a Zesto replica store downtown but the real Zesto ice cream and burger joint known around the country was just across from the CWS Fan Zone to the south of the stadium. It closed for good in 2013 after suffering a dropoff in business and costly frozen pipe damage.
Epcot Jr.: The glass dome beyond right field.
For many TV viewers the Desert Dome at the adjacent zoo was a mystery. When it was first built, my favorite Omaha radio show hosts, Otis 12 and Diver Dan, referred to it as Epcot, Jr.
A rainbow of color: Bands of beautiful seats
The view was most striking via aerial shots from any outfield vantage point, but anyone who wandered into a sparsely populated Rosenblatt couldn’t help being awed by the glorious bands of blue, yellow and red colored seats that added to the carnival-like atmosphere.
The Rosenblatt Roar: Distinctive sound of success.
You didn’t even have to be in the stadium to know when something big happened on the field, usually one of the aforementioned home runs. The crowd would let you know with a roar that reverberated perfectly from the mostly steel construct. It could be hear from nearly a mile away.
Dingerville: The urban RV park.
It began in the 80s when a few fans from down south opted to bring their own lodging to Omaha for the CWS. They parked em on a grassy median just south of the stadium. The City of Omaha adapted to demand for a few years by installing pad and electrical hookups, then pulled the plug for good in the 90s.