Who was Johnny Rosenblatt?

Cropped Johnny Rosenblatt plaque

Johnny Rosenblatt was a baseball player and politician in Omaha, NE after whom a popular baseball stadium was named.

Rosenblatt played baseball in the amateur, semipro and professional ranks. His love of the game drove him to serve as Chairman of the Municipal Stadium Sports Committee Commission. In that role, Rosenblatt was a key player in urging Omaha voters to pass a bond referendum to fund the initial build in 1945 and additional financing in 1948.Originally named Municipal Stadium in 1948, it was renamed Rosenblatt Stadium in 1964 in honor of Johnny Rosenblatt (1907-1979).

Johnny Rosenblatt plaque at Omaha's Infield at the Zoo
Johnny Rosenblatt plaque at Omaha’s Infield at the Zoo memorial park where Rosenblatt Stadium once stood.
Closeup of Johnny Rosenblatt plaque at Omaha's Infield at the Zoo

With some influence from Johnny, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) agreed to move the College World Series from Wichita, KS, to Omaha in 1950, where it has been played since. Omaha voters were evidently happy with the outcome since they elected Rosenblatt Mayor of Omaha in 1954, where he remained in office until 1961.

For sixty years, Rosenblatt Stadium was home to the College World Series. Each June, Rosenblatt workers and the residents of Omaha would roll out the red carpet for the country’s top eight college teams and their fans. No other sport, amateur or professional, has determined its champion in the same venue for that many consecutive years.

Without a doubt, the College World Series is what Rosenblatt Stadium is best known for. But to think of Rosenblatt as nothing more than the home of the college baseball championship would be short sighted.

Over the years, Omaha’s “Diamond on the Hill”, as it’s often referred to, also served as the home field for the city’s minor league baseball team. Omaha’s farm team for the Royals organization in Kansas City was known by various names over the decades. Most notable was the Omaha Royals, which was the name of the team in the final few years that they called The Blatt home.

Rosenblatt Stadium also hosted many high school sporting events. Not just baseball; football, too. It was also the site of tractor pulls, semi-pro football games and numerous concerts. Sadly, at the end of her life, Rosenblatt was also the site of one of Omaha’s largest auctions. On June 29, 2010, the last College World Series game was played at Rosenblatt. The University of South Carolina won its first national title in a men’s sport by defeating UCLA 2 – 1 with a walk-off single by Whit Merrifield in the eleventh inning.

As spectacular as the final College World Series was, it wasn’t the last ballgame played at The Blatt. On September 2, 2010, the Omaha Royals beat Round Rock (TX) Express in the last ever baseball game at Rosenblatt before a crowd of just under 24,000. After the final out, Steve Rosenblatt, the only child of the stadium’s namesake, donned a batting helmet and stepped into the batter’s box to take a few swings. Once he was satisfied with the contact he made with the ball, he gave the thumbs signaling it was time for one more big fireworks show at The Blatt to begin.

The text above is an excerpt from Romancing The Blatt: Memoir of a Love Affair with Omaha’s Field of Dreams.

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