From The Archives: Rosenblatt, 1964-1980

Here’s my second blog post about Rosenblatt Stadium. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that from 1964 to 1980.

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

 

Mike Lewis, left, and Rocky Swanson admire the new sign erected in 1964 when Municipal Stadium was renamed to honor former Mayor Johnny Rosenblatt. THE WORLD-HERALD

The sign above stood until 1989, according to former stadium Jesse Cuevas. He said that through the years, neighborhood youths would use Johnny Rosenblatt’s face for target practice with their BB guns.

 

The 1969 American Association champion Omaha Royals

The Cardinals were the minor-league tenant at Municipal Stadium from 1949 to 1959. The Dodgers moved in for 1961 and 1962. It wasn’t until 1969 that the stadium finally welcomed its next minor-league team, the Omaha Royals, shown above.

 

Jack McKeon, the first manager of the Omaha Royals. TOM PLAMBECK/THE WORLD-HERALD

The AAA Royals’ roster was filled with veteran players, many who had been in the big leagues and many had developed interesting personalities. In our book, “Rosenblatt Stadium: Omaha’s Diamond on the Hill,” McKeon is quoted as saying, “Up until 2003, the two most enjoyable years I spent in baseball were when we were winning pennants in Omaha. To take such a collection of – I don’t want to call them misfits – different personalities and accomplish what we did was very satisfying.”

Among the incidents in the book: Pitcher Bill Faul once bit the head off a parakeet to win a bet, and McKeon once saw Faul eat a frog!

 

Here are a few College World Series photos:

Second baseman Mike Kielkopf tags out a high-sliding Mike Grieco of Temple in 1972. RUDY SMITH/THE WORLD-HERALD

Tulsa center fielder Steve Bowling, right, managed to hang onto the ball although he and left fielder Rich Stonebraker fell after this collision in 1971. RUDY SMITH/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Don’t forget the arguments. This reminds me of the scene in “Bull Durham.”

Umpire Doug Cossey, left, argues with Arizona coach Jerry Kindall about amount of pine tar on Arizona State player Ken Landreaux's bat while NCAA game official Chal Port, above, listens in 1975. RUDY SMITH/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Innovative Southern Illinois coach Joe Lutz created a stir in 1968 when he brought bat girls to the College World Series for the first time. From left are: Michele Martin, Diana Tuel, Linda Svoboda and Christy Gee. THE WORLD-HERALD

 

How many of us had moments like this?

Jeff Phipps, 6, watched with evident tension while his favorite team, Cal-State Fullerton, edged toward the championship in 1979. RUDY SMITH/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Fan No. 1 million!

Rosenblatt's 1-millionth fan, Tom Axtell, and his date, Cheryl Peterson, walk through the gates in 1972. ED RATH/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Baseball wasn’t the only sport played at Rosenblatt. The New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings played an exhibition game there on Sept. 11, 1965.

From left: Vikings players Tommy Mason, holding 1-year-old Jeanne Marie Stoddard, Fran Tarkenton, Rip Hawkins and Bill Brown sign autographs for Rhoda Lynn Stoddard, 9, and Margaret and Bob Cenk, both 10. THE WORLD-HERALD

 

The Omaha Mustangs played at Rosenblatt from 1964 to 1972. Financial problems led to the team’s demise in 1978.

In this game against Oklahoma, Omaha Mustangs receiver George Anderson is tackled by Mickey Williams after a 9-yard gain. No. 80 is Bill Haas. THE WORLD-HERALD

Longtime Omahans, check out the advertisement in the background. Remember Philips?

 

Taking care of the stadium was always a big job, and Rosenblatt was lucky to have good employees. The first grounds manager was Frank Mancuso. Below is a 1960 photo of him and a mongrel pup who made its home at the stadium.

Frank Mancuso, field boss at Municipal Stadium, sweeps water off the tarp covering home plate. THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Here’s a creative way of dealing with water on the field…

Charles Tingley of Platte Valley Helicopter uses the fan action of helicopter to dry the field in 1969. YANO MELANGAGIO/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Jesse Cuevas,  groundskeeper and crew chief at Rosenblatt from 1987 until the park closed, started in 1969 shagging balls for the Royals. He retired on April 13, 2012, and the Omaha City Council dedicated that day in his honor.

Jesse Cuevas in 1986. RICH JANDA/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Stay tuned for more 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, the later years.

 

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. Bernadette Smith says:

    I loved this photo article! I was a huge fan of Rosenblatt, my family home being only a few blocks from the stadium. We could see the 4th of July fireworks from our house, and my dad took me to my first baseball game there. I knew the Mancusos, and that picture of Frank was great. The “disagreement” between the ump and the coach is classic, and the little kid biting his glove is baseball at its best. Thanks a million for putting together this tribute to the best-looking stadium in the country!

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

      Thanks! More coming up!

  2. Erin O'Brien says:

    What a thrill it was to scroll through and see these old photos! I think many of us from the area have fond memories of Rosenblatt. From school field trips to night games, the College World Series to other happenings, I know I have my memories. It will be a sad day when this stadium is torn down.

    I will have to get that book for my father! It’s a fantastic gift idea.

  3. Eric says:

    I cheated death at Rosenblatt. As I a kid, I went through the old bleachers on the first base side head first. Luckily, my dad’s friend grabbed my foot. I still went back every year after!

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

      Great story!

  4. Ethel Cunningham says:

    Great memories seeing the old photos. I grew up on 10th & Center, went to Lincoln Elementary School from 1960-67. We would get free tickets to the College World Series for being on the Fire & Safety Patrol.

  5. Don McMahill says:

    I played on the reserve football team at Omaha u. with Frankie Mancuso back in the late 50′s. What a great athlete and team-mate. A real touch of nostalga to see his photograph, above, working on the grounds at Rosenblatt.

  6. [...] Rosenblatt, 1964-1980 [...]

  7. mike kielkopf says:

    I stumbled across this today and really enjoyed the pictures, especially since I played at Rosenblatt in the 1972 CWS, and the picture of the Iowa player tagging out the sliding Temple player is me. I played second base for the Hawkeyes in that series. If you have any other photos of Iowa playing in that 1972 CWS, I’d love to buy them. We played #1 Arizona State in our first game at Rosenblatt in 1972. Thanks again for posting this photo blog.

    Mike Kielkopf
    Karachi American School
    Pakistan