Category Archives: Tributes

Rosenblatt Stadium: The baseball icon is gone


Rosenblatt Stadium Pressbox

By Paul Fiarkoski

Aug. 22, 2012 – A peculiar noise disrupted the morning air for residents of the fabled South Omaha neighborhood that had been the home of Rosenblatt Stadium and the College World Series for more than sixty years.

Minutes before 7 a.m. local time, the detonation of strategically placed explosives brought down the royal blue structure that hovered for decades over the stadium grandstand. Through that structure passed many a noteworthy personality over the years. Beneath it sat countless loyal fans of the game (and the stadium) seeking shelter from foul balls and the hot Nebraska sun.

Yesterday residents in the area immediately surrounding Rosenblatt Stadium received notices that they would hear an explosion shortly after sunrise. Today, down came crumbling the pointed A-Frame perch of broadcasters and journalists (and one special organist) over the years that left no doubt to passersby that here sat the real-life field of dreams.

Our nightmare is over. It happened like clockwork, just as the flyer advertised. I couldn’t hear it but I felt it clear out here in my Phoenix home. I felt the heartbreak with a twist of nausea all over again as my Twitter feed and Facebook wall promptly filled up with comments, videos and retweets of the gruesome sight. If this blog was called Forget Rosenblatt, I would probably share the images with you. For those of you who can handle the gory scene, search Google or YouTube.

Rosenblatt Stadium is gone for good. Okay – not for good, but forever.

Who knows? Maybe this will be a good thing for those who have had trouble letting go. What if this means we won’t have to bear our wounds being reopened each time a new image of a deteriorating Rosenblatt is posted online? Time will tell.

Farewell Rosenblatt! Thanks for the memories.

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Fan memories of Rosenblatt Stadium


by Paul Fiarkoski

The College World Series will always conjure up will always revive the nostalgia of Rosenblatt Stadium. But Rosenblatt was more than college baseball. It was also host to games played by the Omaha Royals and their Triple A opponents. Indeed, Rosenblatt was far more than baseball. Here, concerts and tractor pulls were held, as well as fireworks displays,  football games and even weddings. For some, Rosenblatt was a summer job. Others viewed the stadium as a neighborhood landmark.

Regardless of what place Rosenblatt occupies in your heart, it’s likely you have fond memories of Omaha’s legendary Diamond on the Hill. We invite all fans to share your memories here.

Share your Rosenblatt memories in the comment box below.

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It’s over, folks. Rosenblatt Stadium is gone.


by Paul Fiarkoski

Nearly two years have passed since the last baseball game at Rosenblatt Stadium. Yet when I browse the web in search of references about Rosenblatt I’m frequently surprised to see how many people still refer to Rosenblatt in the present tense.

This morning on Twitter I saw a few references to people having a trip to Rosenblatt on their bucket list. One gent was passing through Omaha on a road trip and stopped to share a picture he had just taken from the north side of the stadium. His caption was something to the effect of “the College World Series started here yesterday.”

Hello, buddy! Is there any evidence around you that indicates the greatest show on dirt is taking place at Rosenblatt this week? I can imagine the shock and horror he fealt if the lad continued around to the south side of the stadium to snap another instagram.

It’s over, folks. Rosenblatt Stadium is gone.

I don’t fault these innocent people who missed the news. It just means they took a year or two off from following the college world series. That happens. I’ve been guilty of the same in the past. I don’t get angry anymore (at the City of Omaha), I just get sad.

Dead outfield at Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt Stadium’s dead outfield, June 2012
Photo by Lee Warren

One evening last week the Omaha Storm Chasers, Triple-A minor league team of the KC Royals, hosted a gathering at Rosenblatt for their players and staff, plus a few members of the media. Rosenblatt was their home field until 2011. As I understand it, the purpose was to give folks one last opportunity to say goodbye to the Blatt before the demolition equipment comes in July to start bringing her down. The stories and pictures that came out broke my heart, again.

The Omaha Zoo Foundation, which has assumed ownership of the stadium and the ground it’s on has opened the stadium up to the general public for people to come in and throw the ball around, share memories and hang out in the dugout. The Omaha press billed it as one last opportunity to say goodbye. Apparently the foundation is trying to sell bricks for $250 each to help raise money for the demolition and removal of debris.

Mitch Sherman wrote a piece for espn.com that was about as subjective as it gets in today’s media. It was raw, direct, accusatory. And right on the mark. “Enough. Why are they doing this, to sell bricks? Because it’s sure not conjuring any great memories,” is how Sherman assessed the enterprise.

Lee Warren, who I met at Rosenblatt in her final year of glory (2010), published an article of similar tone on Yahoo! Sports and shared a number of photos of the tour. Both described the experience as a wake for deceased family. The Associated Press even shared a piece about it.

At his retirement ceremony Jesse Cuevas, Rosenblatt’s legendary groundskeeper for the stadium’s last three decades, said it best:  “The soul of the place is gone. It’s just a carcass now.”

I was unable to make it to Omaha for the 2012 College World Series due to a recent move to Phoenix but I have to say I’m glad I missed out on the Rosenblatt wake. I hate funerals. I’m missing not being in Omaha for the CWS. But even more I miss all the good times and great vibes at Rosenblatt.

Related: What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium?

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Remembering the fireworks at Rosenblatt Stadium


by Paul Fiarkoski

Most people think of the College World Series when they think of Rosenblatt, but it was once the spot for way more than that. Here is what I say to anyone whoever came to Rosenblatt for the College World Series and thought it was the best party ever: “You ain’t seen nothin’!”

To this day, I have still never seen a more spectacular fireworks display than the ones at Rosenblatt. The people driving through Omaha on Interstate 80, even truckers, would literally just stop to watch the fireworks. The South Omaha neighborhood surrounding the stadium was ONE BIG PARTY. The residents would invite their friends and family over and it turned into the city’s biggest party. The prepping usually began a few days before the Fourth with lawn mowing, hanging up banners, etc.

On the night of the fireworks, usually the 2nd or 3rd, the entire neighborhood was virtually standing room only. The smell of barbecue, beer and sulfur from spent fireworks began permeated the air around noon. If you didn’t have a parking spot in the neighborhood or in someone’s yard by 4 p.m., that meant you would be walking a long way or watching the show from afar.

The home I grew up in was nearly a mile away from Rosenblatt at 24th & D Streets. We never had people park near our house for the College World Series. But for the fireworks shows, the curbs along the front and side of our house would be packed about three hours before show.

We always watched the fireworks right from the elevated deck on the back of my parent’s house. The Rosenblatt lights rose far above of all the treetops between our house and the stadium. The fireworks rocketed many times higher. I remember the first time I heard Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be American“. A local country radio station, KYNN if I recall correctly, had landed the rights to play about 25 minutes of patriotic music that was synched up with the fireworks display. This way, you didn’t have to be in the stadium to get the full experience. I was overwhelmed by the sense of pride I felt that night listening to Greenwood’s lyrics while being mesmerized by the incredible show choreographed by the famous Grucci family.

I couldn’t help wondering how much was spent on those displays or when the finale would come. The performance seemed to go on forever, yet it never got old. When it ended, there were 20-something thousand people inside the stadium would file out and hit the streets in their cars. Estimated crowds in the surrounding area often exceeded five times the number of paid spectators. This all led to huge bottlenecks in the narrow residential streets of South Omaha and on the adjacent interstate.

When I began dating the woman who would become my wife, she lived with her mom three blocks from the stadium. On Grucci fireworks nights, it was typically three hours after the fireworks show was over before the traffic jam subsided.

After decades of dazzling Independence Day fireworks shows, the skies over Rosenblatt remained dark for the first time in 2011. Many of the folks in Omaha, especially South Omaha, felt a great void. They have been sharing their thought on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.

Read their comments>>

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Rosenblatt Stadium: fan memories reflect the pain of loss


LSU fans 2009

LSU Tigers fans at the 2009 College World Series

Memories of Rosenblatt Stadium some fans have shared on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook:

Last year (2009) was the last CWS. This year is just a 10 day funeral. The city muckety mucks that perpetrated this fraudulent need for a new stadium will milk it as much as possible. The Corporate World Series has begun. Thanks for the memories, Johnny. I guess the right people weren’t making enough money. John F. Holdforth

We’ve been almost every year for the last 15 years with our 5 kids- to them it’s one of the best shows on earth! What’s not to love-college (not pro) baseball, great fans to watch, the zoo next door, nike town, and ZESTOS!!!! So sad when the “big boys” think they can make more money by changing things! Alna Parish

With Rosenblatt closed and the New TD Ameritrade opening, my heart is heavy. Too Many Memories, living on 13th Street for many years and then moving closer to the ballpark to 16th Street, we were always close to all the crowds that would park on the street and after game they would become a parade of people going to their cars and then dinners. It was a simplier time. Too bad money is the movitator to destroy a landmark and to build a ball park without memories of taking your kids and grand kids to the ball game. Your son or daughter working in the stands selling dogs for money to buy school clothes or save for their first car. I will miss Rosenblatt Stadium because of the Memories and the College World Series, the traffic and the SMILING FANS.  Kimberly Jane Peterson-Heier

Saw Arkansas lose to LSU in 2009. I felt overwhelmed by the magic that is Rosenblatt Stadium and wanted more. This past summer, I got to see Games 1 thru 6. Spent all day Sunday during the rain and got to see game 3. They played game 4 on Monday so since I had tickets for that game, I got tickets for games 5 & 6. I’m glad I discovered the CWS and Rosenblatt thanks to ESPN. I sure will miss the Diamond on the Hill. Mike Lustig

Jesse (Cuevas, groundskeeper) never knew who I was, but I looked for him each night – he was part of that park – one night the chicken or some mascot rode a four wheeler over a pitcher’s mound and I thought Jesse was going to lose it – it was a funny sight looking back! Erika Meldrum Harris

Share your memories below or on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.

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Rosenblatt Stadium legend: Chopper the ball shagger


Rosenblatt legends come in all shapes and sizes. Some were athletes, others were groundskeepers or announcers. One legend was a 4-foot tall, 80 lbs. ball shagger by the name of Eugene Rosales, but everyone knew of him as Chopper. Even ESPN’s Kyle Peterson reminisced about Chopper during a recent broadcast of a Creighton – Nebraska game.

I tracked Chopper down and asked him to share his memories as Rosenblatt’s College World Series ball shagger.

RR: Do you remember what your official title was?
ER:  My official job title I believe was ball shagger. I was too young and excited to have that job to ask them why they didn’t just use the same person who did the Royals games. I was actually an employee for the City of Omaha .

RR: How old were you when you performed that role?
ER: I was 11 when I first got the job in the summer after finishing 6th grade. My dad knew the foreman of the grounds crew (Frank Mancuso) and he simply asked him if I could have the job. Frank was a cool cat with his cigars. 

RR: Did you ever meet anyone famous at Rosenblatt?
ER: I actually have met a ton of people and players who went on to be stars in the major leagues. Some of the players I met were Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Pete Incaviglia, Dave Magadan. A lot of them I still have autographed baseballs in a box at home. I may have met Chris Berman from ESPN not really knowing who he was since cable TV was a relatively new thing back then.

RR: You became a sort of Rosenblatt legend in your own right. Explain how you went from being a foul ball shagger to a Rosenblatt icon.
ER: That’s quite a compliment, but I think there are probably more deserving people of the icon status than me. Guys like Jesse and Terry Cuevas come to mind. I remember Terry wearing his cowboy boots all the time. He was always so nice to me. I only had that job for four summers from 81-84.

He’s so modest, or embarrassed. Chopper became a CWS sensation for the dance moves he pulled off whenever he caught the foul balls off the backstop net. His moves had moves! Chopper was as entertaining as the games on the field.

RR: What is your fondest memory (or a few) of Rosenblatt Stadium?
ER: I have lots of them. The only memories I have of the actual stadium facility so to speak are how I was always so intrigued by the light towers that lit the stadium for night games when I was very young. Believe it or not, one of my goals was to climb up one of them. That never happened of course.

My other memory of the actual facility was how I was so taken with being able to go into the clubhouse and visit with the players and coaches. Other memories are mostly of the people that worked there and how hard everyone worked to get ready for the event. I got to sign lots of autographs. I still have a couple of scars on my right arm from diving on the gravel warning track around the field. I guess I didn’t take heed to the warning huh?

Chopper (Eugene) still lives in Omaha employed in the mortgage lending business. He’s a loyal fan of the Kansas City Royals.

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Dads made memories special at Rosenblatt Stadium


 

Rosenblatt Stadium

2010 College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium

Fathers Day and Rosenblatt go together like peanut butter and jelly, especially considering one or more College World Series games are typically played on Fathers Day.

Following are a few memories Rosenblatt fans shared of their fathers:

My Dad and I always played in a father-son golf tournament every year on Father’s Day. In 2002 I went to the CWS for the first time and on Father’s Day that year I was down on the bridge in right field when Nebraska was playing South Carolina. I called my Dad and while I was talking to him I snapped a picture down the …line towards home plate. It was a beautiful Nebraska afternoon and the picture turned out great…especially with all that red in the crowd.

My Dad died suddenly that Fall and I never spent another Father’s Day with him. I take that picture to work with me each year around CWS time and the 3 times I’ve been to the CWS since then I have always tried to sit somewhere in that right field corner on Father’s Day. I have a lifelong tie to Rosenblatt as it was the last place I talked to my Dad on Father’s Day. Curt Stimpson


My dad took me to my first concert after a Royal’s game. I don’t recall the year, but I was really young. Maybe about 4 or 5 years old. It was Huey Lewis and the News. It’s a shame that Rosenblatt is gonna be no more. It makes me sad. I think me and my dad will attend the .38 Special concert in July. One final game, One final concert for old times sake. Tammy Maguire

My dad taking me to the CWS and Royals games from the time I was a little girl. We still go to a game or two and after this year, I will not get to see another live CWS game. Jacque Mass Reumund


My dad and I took our first trip to the CWS this year and we loved every minute of it. It was amazing, Rosenblatt has an aura about it that transcends time. I will hate to see it go but I’m glad my dad and I had the opportunity to experience Rosenblatt and the CWS… Omaha you should dig up the Rosenblatt dirt and put it in the new stadium, there’s magic in that dirt. Jody Black


Great memories of Rosenblatt – went every night with our Dad to see the then Omaha Cardinals. If you can believe – had tshirts that allowed us to get in free. Love baseball to this day!! Nancy Yambor


I will miss Rosenblatt. Lots of memories from my father living a block away watching it getting built to working there. As a family we would go to the Royals games. Carol Hughes

Now it’s your turn. Share your own memory of Dad and Rosenblatt by clicking “Leave a reply” below (only your comment and name will be visible to other readers) or on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.

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