Memories live on as stadium closes CWS run

A window cleaner works at Rosenblatt Stadium. The ballpark, which has been home to the NCAA Division I championship since 1950, is playing host to the event for the final time.

OMAHA, Neb. --- To people in college baseball, Rosenblatt Stadium is as much a shrine to the sport as Wrigley Field, Fenway Park or the old Yankee Stadium.


Every year since 1950, the Division I championship has culminated with the College World Series at the ballpark atop a hill in Omaha, Neb.

Come Saturday, the series will begin its last run at Rosenblatt before moving to a new downtown stadium in 2011. The final field at Rosenblatt includes Clemson, South Carolina, TCU, Florida, Florida State, UCLA, Arizona State and Oklahoma.

Retired Louisiana State University coach Skip Bertman said he feels the pangs of nostalgia. He won five national championships and made 13 other visits to Rosenblatt as either a head coach or assistant, and he's come back most years since retiring in 2001.

The Tigers won't be back to defend their national title this year, but Bertman will be here anyway.

"They can't take away the memories," Bertman said. "It's only girders, steel, aluminum and wood, and they're just going to move it a couple miles. They're not taking the College World Series away from Omaha. The new girders, steel, wood and metal will house the fans and players in a more comfortable fashion and everyone will benefit."

A ticket for the CWS' last go-round at Rosenblatt is a tough one. Sports fans across the nation who have put off making a trip to Rosenblatt suddenly realize that this is their last chance, local ticket broker Chad Carr says.

A box seat to Saturday's opener, with a face value of $27, was listed as high as $325 on Carr's Ticket Express Web site earlier this week. Carr said his CWS sales were about 30 percent ahead of a comparable time last year.

"There's a sense of nostalgia in the air, with people wanting to experience the College World Series in its true, noncorporate form one last time," Carr said.

Rosenblatt was considered state-of-the-art when it opened as Omaha Stadium in 1948. The city spent about $1 million to build what originally was a 10,000-seat stadium.

It was renamed Rosenblatt Stadium in 1964, after Johnny Rosenblatt, a popular Omaha mayor and baseball enthusiast.

The stadium's national acclaim has come in more recent years and is owed exclusively to the College World Series' 10-day run each June. There have been countless memorable moments, from Warren Morris' two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth home run that gave LSU the 1996 national championship to Dave Winfield's one-hit effort for Minnesota in 1973 that went for naught against Southern California to Miami's phantom pick-off play against Wichita State in 1982.

"It is the epitome of college baseball," Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson said. "It is the pinnacle of where everybody wants to be."



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