June 18, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. - The National Collegiate Athletic Association Men's College World Series has been linked to the city of Omaha, Neb., for six decades. The event, which spent its first two seasons (1947-48) in Kalamazoo, Mich., and the next year in Wichita, Kan., moved to the Cornhusker state on a trial basis in 1950 thanks in part to the efforts of then-Omaha mayor Johnny Rosenblatt.
Now, 60 years later, the largest city in Nebraska is the place every college baseball team dreams about playing in during the hot and humid days of late June. Next year, the ballpark that has housed the culmination of the collegiate baseball season will pass the baton to a new state-of-the-art facility, TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. But, from June 19-29/30, the facility that has become synonymous with the CWS, Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, will have one last hurrah.
Rosenblatt Stadium, the city of Omaha and the NCAA have planned several events to commemorate the old ballpark before she says goodbye to the CWS. Past players, coaches and teams will be honored as part of the two week long party expected in America's heartland. Prior to game one of the championship series, June 28, members of the 1950 national champion Texas Longhorns and national runner-up Washington State Cougars will ceremonially deliver the 2010 national championship trophy at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Representing Washington State will be Bob McGuire and Sonny Galloway. McGuire batted .364 during Pacific Coast Conference play in 1950 while patrolling center field as the Cougars captured the Northern Division crown with a 12-2 mark. Galloway appeared in nine games on the mound, including five starts, and posted a 4-1 mark in helping Washington State register a 27-4 record in the regular season.
The Cougars swept Stanford (3-2 and 6-5) in Pullman to win the PCC title and earn the NCAA District 8 bid to Omaha. Washington State arrived in the Midwest by train. At the CWS, the Cougars won their first three games behind solid pitching. Lee Dolquist (3-1 vs. Tufts), future Major Leaguer Gene Conley (9-1 vs. Alabama) and Rod Keogh (3-1 vs. Rutgers) each logged complete game victories and with four teams left in the eight-team field; Washington State was the lone undefeated squad.
Texas, which was the defending national champion, arrived in Omaha via a chartered plane. The Longhorns were defeated by Rutgers 4-2 in the opener, then eliminated Colorado State and Tufts in their next two games. In the next round, Rutgers eliminated Wisconsin and the Longhorns routed the Cougars 12-1 to stave off elimination for the third-straight game. Since Washington State was the last undefeated team in the tournament, the Cougars earned a bye into the championship game and awaited the winner of an elimination contest between Rutgers and Texas. The Longhorns outslugged the Chanticleers (later the Scarlet Knights) 15-9 to set up a rematch with the Cougars in a winner-take-all clash.
Municipal Stadium, as Rosenblatt was known by at the time, sustained a thunderstorm and the start of the championship game was delayed by rain. Officials contemplated a postponement, but eventually the water was swept away, sand soaked up moisture in the base paths and 2,384 spectators witnessed the crowning of the first national champion in Omaha.
In the title game, Texas took advantage of a dozen walks by Keogh to score a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to chase the Cougar hurler. Conley pitched brilliantly in relief blanking the Longhorns on just one hit over the final three and one-third innings while striking out five.
The Cougar bats were stymied by Texas pitching as James Ehrler, who no-hit Tufts in Omaha, and Murray Wall combined for a five-hit shutout with Ehrler going seven innings and striking out eight in the Longhorns' 3-0 victory. It was the first of five national championships in Omaha for Texas (the Longhorns also won it all in Wichita the year prior) and the first of four CWS appearances for the Cougars.
Today, the coaches of the two teams in the 1950 championship game have their names associated with the current ballparks of their respective universities. UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas honors Bibb Falk who was at the helm of the Texas program and won back-to-back national championships in 1949-50. In Pullman, Wash., Bailey-Brayton Field pays tribute to Buck Bailey who won 603 games during his 32 seasons with the Crimson and Gray. Bailey led the Cougars to the CWS in 1950 and 1956 and the NCAA postseason in 1960 and 1961.
It seems only fitting that two schools that help begin a tradition that has lasted so long will be on hand to say goodbye to the place that began as one man's dream and became the dream of so many associated with college baseball.