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Remembering Rosenblatt Stadium – the concert venue

In the 1970s and early 80s concerts at Rosenblatt Stadium were a big deal. Many times in my early teen years, my buddies and I rode our bikes or skateboards down to the stadium during concerts. We had no plans, or means, to get into the concerts but it was just fun to be a part of all the activity taking place around the stadium. We would hang out for a while on one of the street corners just watching people as they made their way to the stadium. Once everyone was inside the stadium we would make our way back home.

Summer concerts at Rosenblatt were especially good for people watching as a pubescent male who attended a Catholic grade school because that was about the only opportunity to get glimpses of busty, tanned gals in halter tops. We often dreamed about the day we would be able to make it into a concert and how we would dance around with all the girls.

The Beach Boys
Finally, my shot came one summer in the early 80s. The Beach Boys were coming to Rosenblatt and my brother, nine years my senior, offered to take me along with his friends. I would have been twelve or thirteen at the time. I remember many things about that first concert experience and few of them had to do with the music. In particular, this was my first exposure to people openly consuming large amounts of alcohol and it was my first time ever smelling marijuana. I remember thinking how all of it made people just a little bit crazy.

Here’s what I mean by crazy. While standing in line to use one of the portable jons that had been arranged in a row to the north of the third base line stands a hairy, buff shirtless guy walked by with a Beach Boys button pinned right into his chest! He seemed not to care, or even know, that a trickle of blood was matting the fur on his front side.

Moments later, just as my turn to relieve myself approached, a couple of guys came up from behind one of the portables and dumped it over with someone inside – and the door facing down! You would have thought the Tazmanian devil was trapped in that bivvy the way it rocked back and forth as the lad trapped inside tried to free himself. The rest of us stood around in stunned amazement with a blanket look of “what do we do?”

Certainly, nobody in our group dared to help raise the portable back to an upright position with all the profanity-laced threats coming from within. There was no telling what this guy was going to do once he got out. So we did the only logical thing and split.

For big concerts like this that weren’t affiliated with a baseball game, they would set the stage up on the warning track along the wall in right centerfield. Concert goers would spread blankets out all over the outfield turf and party it up for an hour or two in anticipation of the show starting.

I’m not sure who thinks to bring beach balls to Rosenblatt events, but it seems there were always plenty on hand even back in the 80s. Waiting for your turn to volley the rainbow colored sphere is a great way to keep your mind off the anticipation of the opening number.

As soon as the mic checks began, fans would jump up and begin crowding toward the stage. Thankfully, my brother and his friends had the good sense to hang toward the back of the crowd for the Beach Boys concert.

The Police
My next most memorable concert at Rosenblatt was in 1982. The Police were on tour after the release of their Ghost in the Machine album. While most of my friends were into bands like Lynrd Skynrd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and other hard rock groups, I had become quite a fan of the Police.

I talked one friend into going to the concert with me, then saved up money from my paper route to buy a ticket. As with the Beach Boys concert, I only have vivid memories of a couple elements of the night. One was the walk to the stadium with my buddy. It was so hot we were sweating like crazy when we got there.

I also remember being upset that we didn’t get there early enough to get anywhere near the stage. We endured the opening band and intermission, beach ball volleys, sound check, etc. before the Police came out.

Finally, the pinnacle moment of my summer had arrived. The Police – live and in person! That didn’t last long. About three songs into the set some joker tossed a bottle in the midst of the band and the Police were done. My final glimpse of the band was the Police zipping away in limos behind the right field wall.

I couldn’t believe what was happening right before my eyes. The moment I had been waiting for all summer vanished just like that. I still haven’t forgiven the bonehead who launched the bottle on stage.


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The last meeting of Texas and Arizona State at Rosenblatt Stadium (2009)

Most of my Rosenblatt memories are about the stadium itself, or the fan experience. However, a few baseball moments stand out in my mind. One such moment was the second TexasArizona State matchup of the 2009 College World Series, a game I attended with my wife, Wendi. We had watched the two teams play earlier in the week in a game that would go the Longhorns’ way. Since we were in Omaha on our summer vacation, we took the kids camping for a couple nights at Lake Panorama in central Iowa where my parents spend their summers.

On our drive back to the Big O Friday morning, I received a call from my sister in Omaha who had won some tickets at work to attend the day game between LSU and Arkansas. She wanted me to join her for the game in the box seats just beyond first base. I exercised married guy logic and took only a second to give her the affirmative response, then checked with my wife to see if it was okay.

Wendi (left) with friends Anna and Mary at the rain-delayed day game between LSU & Arkansas

Moments later Wendi received a call from a friend who also landed tickets for the afternoon game – about five rows behind home plate. So here we were, both going to the game on free tickets with hardly any notice. That’s just how it works in Omaha sometimes. We patiently sat a couple hours through a rain delay in our ponchos until they were able to get the game in.

When Wendi and I met up in front of the stadium after the game, I announced that I would like to go to the night game as well. Considering we had driven two hours from Iowa that morning, then sat through about five hours combined of baseball and rain delay, I figured the prospect of a night game would be a hard sell. I figured wrong. By the promptness of her acceptance of my “one more game” proposal, it was evident Wendi had also been bitten by the CWS bug.

Read how we got tickets from an unscalper>>

My date and I made a pitstop at the Curly Fries station and picked up a couple sodas en route to our seats. Then we got acquainted with our neighbors in the upper-most section near the end of the third-base foul line and settled in for some championship baseball.

The sun was now fading behind us and the humidity that was so uncomfortable around 3 pm had burned off. Splendid weather, splendid view.

With it’s rainbow of colors and the varying height of structures, Rosenblatt Stadium was always a treat for the eyes. On this night there was a unique aura about the place. I hadn’t even been drinking and the players seemed to project a sort of glow about them. Based on our position in the stadium, we couldn’t hear the voices of the coaches or players. Even the public address system seemed distant on this night. The crowd noise possessed somewhat of a buzz too. In short, it fealt more as if we were observing the game from heaven than actually participating in the event.

Texas-ASU 2009

Last matchup between Texas & ASU at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium (2009)

Even though a couple innings had passed before we got to our seats, we had missed almost no action. The scoreboard displayed zeros at the top of the third. That was about to change. Arizona State chocked up a run, to be quickly matched by Texas. This back and forth went on through the fifth inning, at which point the game was tied at two a piece. Neither team scored again until the top of the ninth. ASU put up one run and seemed destined to win this thing if Texas didn’t come up with some big bats. They did.

The slow-mo wave
As a spectator I could just sense something special was about to happen. With one out, Texas catcher Cameron Rupp stepped up to the plate. The anxiety was building with this raucous, sold-out Friday night crowd. Almost exactly opposite Rupp in the left-center bleachers, a slow-motion wave spontaneously erupted. I know, the wave shouldn’t be done at baseball games but stick with me.

How the fans to the left of the crew that initiated the wave knew at what pace to join the cause is beyond me, but the sight was spectacular. The wave somehow trickled its way across the break in bleachers at dead center and caterpillared its way across the right field bleachers. It inched along the stands behind the first base line, around the backstop, across the seats behind third, and eventually over to our section.

The suspense and pressure was killing me. At this moment I couldn’t focus on what the count was, or what the batter was doing. I only knew that I could ruin the most perfect wave in college baseball history if I arose from my seat one nanosecond too soon. With the help of my wife, my timing was precise. The wave made it to the end of our row, disappeared for a moment and was picked up perfectly by the watchful fans in left field.

A solo homerun, then a walk-off homer
Eyes back to the field. I only remember seeing Rupp take one swing at the ball. It was the swing that tied the game at threes. Pitch, swing, dink, crowd noise is how I remember it. It happened just as the slow-mow wave made it almost back to it’s origin. After watching the ball launch into the outfield crowd, my wife and I cheered and looked at each other in stunned amazement. Extra innings would extend our long day just a little bit longer – or so we thought.

Connor Rowe had other plans. With the game tied at three, nobody on base and facing two outs, Rowe no doubt knew the kind of pressure I fealt moments earlier with my role in the wave as he approached the plate. Would you believe that just as all eyes focused on Rowe and when the tension couldn’t get any thicker, up popped another slow-motion wave out of left-center field?

Here we go again. The dilemma: do I watch the wave or the batter. I managed to do both. I don’t know how Rowe did it with all the distractions, but somehow he was able to focus only on the pitcher and the task at hand. It happened again. However, this time the pitch-swing-dink was punctuated by a louder roar than I have ever heard at Rosenblatt (this was prior to the 2010 grand slam by TCU’s Matt Curry) as Rowe conducted a slow motion wave of his own around the infield bases into the waiting arms of his team.

The electricity continued to buzz as fans filed out of the stadium and into the night, each recounting in their own way Connor Rowe’s walk-off homer that earned Texas a 4-3 win and a spot in the three-game championship series with LSU a few nights later.

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Creighton changed everything

Prior to 1991 people didn’t wait in line to watch baseball at Rosenblatt. Then Creighton changed everything.

I wasn’t much of a fan of Creighton growing up. The school just didn’t do anything for me. It produced doctors, lawyers and politicians – the kinds of people I was told as a kid I shouldn’t associate with. And besides, my family could never afford to send me to school there. It’s where rich kids go to school, I was taught.

I used to love it when one of my professors at UNO (Univ. of Nebraska, Omaha) worked little digs into his lecture about companies hiring “cheap Creighton grads.”

Having graduated from UNO in 1990, I entered what may have been the happiest phase of my life. I was twenty-three, free from the burdens of school and stayed in great shape tending to the landscapes of many of Omaha’s aforementioned doctors, lawyers and politicians. They really opened my eyes. Not all rich people were heartless money grubbers as I had been led to believe. I learned they valued hard work and doing a good job as much as I did. They rewarded me with repeat business and referrals to the point I had to start turning down clients.

Something else happened in 1990 to change my perspective of Creighton. A friend of a friend invited me to play volleyball on a league at the Bluejay Bar on the southwestern edge of campus. At the time I was sharing a house with a buddy about three minutes away. I loved playing volleyball, drinking beer and the opportunity to meet chicks, so how could I refuse?

Over the course of the summer, I discovered Creighton kids were no different than those of us who went to the “other” university in town. They liked beer, volleyball and loud music as much as I did.

Next door to the Bluejay was Stan’s Barbershop. I traded philosophies with Stan one night over a beer after a volleyball match. Then he became my barber. I was now getting my hair cut in the same shop as Creighton kids.

I grew to know and appreciate a number of Creightonians that summer. They even invited me to a wine and cheese social known as Jazz on the Green at the nearby Joslyn Art Museum, the curator of which was a client of mine.

What was happening to me? “How long could I keep this secret life from my friends in South O?” I wondered.

The next summer, in 1991, it would all become okay. That’s when Creighton’s baseball team somehow accomplished a feat no school from Nebraska had done before them. They earned a trip to the College World Series. Okay, the trip was just across town, but they would compete with the seven other best college teams in my neck of the woods, at Rosenblatt Stadium. For an entire week, it seemed like everyone in Omaha swapped out their Husker red for Bluejay blue.

Before 1991, getting tickets to the College World Series was like getting a ticket to a matinee movie. There were times I had so many offers for free tickets from friends that I became choosy about whose seats I would accept. We all knew that if you had a ticket to a game it was like a day pass to all the games being played that day.

Enter the Creighton Bluejays into the tournament and all bets were off. The College World Series instantly became the hottest ticket in town. It seemed like everyone I knew was loading up on the ticket books being sold at local grocery stores. Even my new girlfriend and I bought tickets.

Wendi and I began dating in January. At the time, Wendi still lived with her mom about three blocks west of Rosenblatt’s home plate. That meant free parking and easy access to the stadium whenever we wanted. We continued to leveraged the benefit well after we married and moved out of town, clear up until the final season in 2010.

I’m ashamed to admit that without the help of the internet I wouldn’t be able to tell you a single player’s name from the 1991 team. Nor could I remember the coaches’ names, nor how many games Creighton played or how well they played. What I can tell you is that the one Creighton game we attended at Rosenblatt was packed. Plus, it was hot as hell. We waited at least two hours in the general admission line out past the third baseline stands just to get in. Then, we got baked in our old-school wooden bleacher seats just beyond the left field wall. I don’t think I ever drank so many three dollar Sprites before or since.

According to the record books, Creighton went two and two in the 1991 tournament. Both losses were to conference rival Wichita State. It didn’t matter that they didn’t play for the championship. By making it into the top eight they earned the respect of college baseball fans. More importantly, they made believers out of the people of Omaha. In so doing, they gave the College World Series a boost past the proverbial tipping point.

There is no doubt in my mind that the 1991 Creighton team drew thousands of people out to Rosenblatt that may have otherwise never stepped foot inside the grand old ballpark. Apparently they liked what they saw. If you look at the stadium’s history on a timeline, it’s clearly evident that Creighton’s presence at the College World Series, along with greater tv coverage, was the catalyst for a boom era at Rosenblatt.

In the twenty years since Creighton’s debut at the College World Series, numerous renovations and upgrades to the tune of millions of dollars nearly doubled the seating capacity of the stadium.

Much to my disappointment, the Rosenblatt Stadium era has come to an end. This year the CWS moves to a new stadium just blocks from the Creighton campus. Having won the Missouri Valley Conference championship in the regular season, Creighton earned a spot in the NCAA tournament of sixty-four teams. It seems the Jays are intent on making an impact at the new stadium too.

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Basecrawl documentary features CWS tailgating at Rosenblatt Stadium

Following is an exclusive Remember Rosenblatt Q&A conducted in 2010 with Troy Foster, co-producer of the Current TV documentary of BaseCrawl – a video journal of every baseball player’s ultimate fantasy. Foster and two buddies embarked on a mission to attend one game at every Major League ballpark in a single season, plus the College World Series at Omaha’s Rosenblatt.

Basecrawl.com co-producers Troy, Daren & Nolan

RR: Why did you feel it was so important to detour several hours off your basecrawl itinerary to go to a minor league park (Rosenblatt Stadium)?

Troy:  You’re not a hard-core baseball fan unless you’ve experienced the annual spectacle that is the College World Series. Not knowing about Rosenblatt Stadium is like saying you’re a baseball guru who’s never heard of Cooperstown.

When we were mapping out our basecrawl itinerary, we made sure that we’d pass within a stone’s throw of Omaha in June. In fact, the dates of several Major League games before and after the College World Series were framed around our stop at Rosenblatt, rather than the other way around.

RR: What was your most memorable College World Series experience?

Troy:  Personally, watching my alma matter win national championships in 2006 and 2007. I went to Oregon State in the late 1990s and spent an occasional spring afternoon in Corvallis watching the Beavers toil in obscurity. Their facilities were sub-par back then and nobody took them seriously because they were one of those “northern teams.” Head Coach Pat Casey and a special group of players scrapped and clawed their way to respectability, first making it to Omaha in 2005.

Following the Beavers triumphs at Rosenblatt Stadium actually reconnected me to baseball, which was an important part of my childhood but wasn’t a strong interest as a teen or adult. However, Oregon State’s storybook run this decade inspired me to give baseball another try and indirectly led to the basecrawl that was the subject of our documentary.

RR: How did the atmosphere of Rosenblatt Stadium compare with all of the MLB parks you attended?

Troy: The game-day experience was, without a doubt, better than anything we saw at the 30 Major League ballparks. Granted, each team in the Majors plays 81 home games and the ones we attended were of no particular significance, but there was something special going on at Rosenblatt Stadium. The tailgating and festival-like atmosphere wasn’t just an event, it was something to behold. I’ve heard other people describe it as akin to a college football atmosphere and I’ve even used those words myself, but I’ve been to plenty of college tailgaters — including the Fiesta Bowl — and this blows those out of the water. If you’ve watched the BaseCrawl installment on the College World Series you’ll notice Daren and I had a little bit too much fun soaking in the atmosphere.


RR: Any tips you would offer anyone considering going to the 2010 College World Series?

Troy:  If you’re a fan of the game of baseball, you need to make it to Rosenblatt this last year before it closes. I’m stunned that Omaha’s powers that be think they need a new ballpark, or that they think they can do better than Rosenblatt. This ballpark is a gem I’ll be sad to see it go.

In terms of any “how to” tips, I would suggest booking hotel reservations NOW if you can, because there’s no such thing as a last-minute reservation or vacancy in Omaha during the College World Series. Both years I’ve been to Rosenblatt we stayed over the state line in Iowa — the first time in Glenwood and last year at a campground. Also, get to the games early and enjoy the scenery and the tailgating. Don’t stress over tickets. They were being sold on the street in abundance for not much more than the change in your pocket.

Finally, don’t be like the guy who didn’t make it to the original Yankee Stadium before they tore it down. This year is Rosenblatt’s last song and dance. Don’t miss it.

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Ticket unscalping at the College World Series (2009)

Read on for a humorous story about my experience with an “unscalper” at Rosenblatt Stadium during the 2009 College World Series.

I have been to enough sporting events to develop a tactic for dealing with scalpers. There’s nothing really earth shattering about the technique; it’s just an application of the principles of supply and demand taught in Economics courses for decades. Here’s how it works: I wait until the game is well under way before I show any interest in needing tickets. Scalpers start to realize that if they don’t recoup their costs then they’ll lose money. This gives the buyer (me) much greater leverage.

And so it played out on the Friday night game of the CWS in June 2009. My wife and I had already sat through a rain-delayed day game and just hadn’t seen enough action, so we decided to stick around for the classic night game featuring Texas and Arizona State. We calmly waited and watched the first two innings on the tube underneath the pavillion just south of the main entrance. Then, it was time to put the plan into action.

As we neared the front entrance, I scanned the faces of those who lingered out front. A raised hand with tickets is a sure sign the party is ready to do business. At a glance, you can tell pro ticket scalpers from the inexperienced. I had no intent on haggling with a pro. Face value was the most I would pay. Into sight walked my target – a twentysomething chap outfitted in flip-flops, denim and Horns shirt and cap. As he walked the wrong way out of the front entrance, he fumbled, almost as an afterthought, to remove the merchandise from his back pocket.

Clearly NOT a pro at ticket sales, this guy was obviously well rehearsed in tailgating. It was my first impression that the lad with whom I was about to enter into my most memorable ticket transaction ever had spent extra innings at the tailgate party in the preceding hours. Eyes bloodshot, breath wreaking of some putrid combination of Jack Daniels, Fat Tire and ganja he was desperate to get rid of these tickets. But he knew his price.

As we began to haggle, he guaranteed the tickets had not yet been used and that his effin friend stood him up and stayed back at the hotel. We began to talk price. “All I want is what I paid for them – $20 plus the friggin’ $4.50 handling fee.”

My turn: “Okay so you want $50 for both of them?” as I started to count out the cash. “NO, dammit; I want effin $49 for them – just what I paid!”

I handed him fifty bucks. As he began to dig around for my dollar in change, I caved. Going against my original plan to pay no more than face value, I let him keep the buck. Partly out of respect, but mostly because I was too impatient to wait for him.

Then the good ole boy did something no scalper has ever done. He escorted my wife and me to the gate to make sure we were able to get in with the tickets. “See!?” he hollered through the bars of the fence, “I told you they were good!” Then he meandered on in his orignal direction, presumably back to the tailgate tent.

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