Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


College baseball players don't necessarily talk about reaching the College World Series; that's a mouthful. Instead, most of them say they dream of going to Omaha.

Because of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I College World Series (CWS), which has been played in Omaha at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium since 1950, Omaha has become synonymous with the sport, and no one wants to see the association end. "When you look at it, how many events are held in the same city for that long a time?" said Dennis Poppe, the NCAA's director of baseball and football operations. "The Masters, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500. Sporting events are moved around a lot nowadays. For a city to have an association with the same event for fifty years is a tremendous accomplishment."

The eight-team CWS was a struggling three-year-old event when it first came to Omaha in 1950 after two years in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and one in Wichita, Kansas. (Future president George Bush played for Yale in the first two series in 1947 and 1948, losing to California and Southern California in the three-game series.) Rosenblatt Stadium was two years old at the time but has since gone through numerous renovations to stay modern, fan-friendly, and profitable, keeping the series in Omaha. It now seats 24,000 fans, and attendance for the entire tournament regularly exceeds 200,000. Many of the fans are regulars, season-ticket holders who come back to Rosenblatt every year for the CWS.

Another steady visitor is Louisiana State University, which under coach Skip Bertman has made eleven trips since 1986. The Tigers and their many fans–easily identified by their purple and gold Mardi Gras beads–have become such Omaha regulars that visitors are as likely to find red beans and rice at Rosenblatt as they are red meat. LSU annually leads Division I teams in attendance at more than 7,000 fans per game, and its fans have seen the Tigers win five CWS titles from 1991 to 2000. Texas, with such famed coaches as Bibb Falk, Cliff Gustafson, and Augie Garrido, has earned a record twenty-eight CWS berths, but not even the Longhorns can match Southern California for series tradition. The Trojans rank second, with twenty-one appearances, despite a sixteen-season absence from 1979 to 1994. Southern California has won the event twelve times, more than twice as many as any other program. Coach Rod Dedeaux is credited with ten of those titles, though he was co-coach of an eleventh crown, the 1948 team. Dedeaux's teams won championships in 1951, 1955, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1966, and 1968, then won five straight from 1970 to 1974 before one last title in 1978. Coach Mike Gillespie, who replaced Dedeaux after the 1984 season, took usc back to Omaha in 1995 and won the cws in 1998.

College World Series website.

John Manuel Baseball America

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