From the Archives: Municipal Stadium’s early years

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.

LEO A. DALY CO.

Above is the architect’s 1945 rendering of the front gate. Did you notice that it was originally referred to as Omaha Memorial Stadium?

 

LEO A. DALY CO.

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

Workers install stadium seats on Sept. 9, 1948. The stadium cost almost $1 million and held about 10,000 people.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

Omaha Mayor Glenn Cunningham addresses the crowd in a pregame dedication program at Municipal Stadium on Oct. 17, 1948.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

STEVE ROSENBLATT COLLECTION

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.

 

Omaha teams

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

Pitchers for the Omaha Dodgers in 1961. From left: Phil Brown, Ron Perranoski, Dick Scott and Bob Wasko.

 

DON LEE/THE WORLD-HERALD

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!

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

THE WORLD-HERALD

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…

ROBERT PASKACH/THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

 

PHOTO PROVIDED BY JOE PITMAN

This is the July 24, 1950, wedding of second basemen Howard Phillips and bride Shirley. The ceremony was performed at home plate.

 

1959 World-Herald editorial cartoon by Hank Barrow and Gabe Parks

 

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, 1964-1980.

Jolene McHugh

About Jolene McHugh

I was a graphic artist prior to coming to the Omaha World-Herald in 2007, and now I’m a photo imaging specialist, which means I prepare photos to print properly in the newspaper. I also have the incredibly fun task of restoring old photographs from our massive library. My favorite part of my job is getting lost in the history and stories behind the photographs. Many of the archive photos have little or no information attached, so I need to properly date and identify the people and places in them. Researching the stories is a bit like being on a historical scavenger hunt. The largest challenge I face is restoring photos we run in our books. Our newest book, “At War, At Home: The Cold War” is filled with hundreds of old photographs, and most of them small and in poor condition. I live in Omaha with my husband, one of my daughters and three very furry Maine Coon cats.
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Comments

  1. BazookaJoe says:

    Great job Joelene,

    I really enjoyed the nostalgia and the pics,
    on the Ol’ Municipal Stadium.

    Thank you,
    regards

  2. michelle l says:

    Anyone else notice the “Hymie Zorinski” outfield billboard, in the overflow crowd photo?

  3. Pomerainian says:

    As always great blog Jolene!

    I can’t wait for the next blog in your Stadium series.

    Thank you.

  4. Yes I spelled it wrong. Pomeranian! says:

    Still a great blog!

  5. Colleen O says:

    Very cool photos, I am off to look at the book!! ;)

  6. John West says:

    Very interesting look at Omaha’s history, thank you for the compilation!

  7. Dianna Eveland says:

    Great job!!

  8. Charles Neumann says:

    I enjoyed the look back at the Omaha Stadium.

  9. [...] Click here for the first post, “Municipal Stadium’s early years.” [...]

  10. [...] Municipal Stadium’s early years [...]

  11. Don McMahill says:

    I watched the stadium being built back in the late forties just 6 blocks from my house. In 2011 I also watched the beginning of the end to this historic landmark… Brought a big tear to my eye

  12. [...] Municipal Stadium’s early years [...]