More than a hundred people showed up in person—while who knows how many others sat at their computers and bid over the internet—for an auction that was conducted in two tents located just outside the front gates of the fenced-off stadium.
The auction was being conducted for the Omaha Zoo Foundation, which now has the land to use for expansion of the adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo. Money from the auction is supposed to help defray costs to build a small park—the “Infield at the Zoo”—that is to be built where the playing field is/was after the stadium is demolished.
Some 900 lots were put up for bid in an auction that lasted well into the afternoon. Everything and anything was sold: from home plate to a handicapped seating sign. From pitching mounds to the padding on the outfield wall. From drinking fountains to dugout benches. From bleacher seats to bathroom contents in the umpires locker room.
Prices ranged from $5 for some signage to $7,500 for the American flag flown outside the stadium for the last time. Winning bids came from all corners of the country, although an Omaha woman won the bidding for the flag, so it will stay home. An additional 10 percent auction fee was added to each item. In some cases, removal charges also were tacked on.
The ionic “Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium” sign on the front of the ballpark sold for $7,000 (plus a $3,050 removal charge). A “Stadium Left Lane, Zoo Right Lane” sign sold to an internet bidder for $350. An “Enter” sign sold for $45. A pair of Mizuno shoes left by Rice righthander Philip Humber fetched $100 while a pair of Luis Encarnacion baseball pants (size 30 with 26-inch inseam) went for $30. A dozen pairs of original seats were discovered during cleanup and were auctioned for anywhere from $1,100 to $1,300.
And on and on it went.
Robert Stark, wearing a Texas Longhorns hat and burnt orange shirt, was among those sitting in the audience eager to get a piece of Rosenblatt history.
He came away with bunting ($550), a pair of original stadium seats ($1,200) and a ticket box ($125). When Stark found out he couldn’t pay with a check, he had to make a quick call back home and ask wife Beth to clear some cap room on their credit card.
Stark, preparing to load everything in his white Ford F-250 (with the burnt orange trim), said his wife knew he was going to buy something, but likely isn’t prepared for this big bill.
Stark will break it to her over the phone on the drive home to Brenham, Texas, saying, “she has 14 hours to get over it.”
The Longhorns have been a big part of the history of the CWS. Five of their six national championships came in Omaha, including one in 1950 when the Series was first played at Rosenblatt.
“I like to collect stuff that has historical significance,” said Stark, who will stick around for the CWS Finals even though the Longhorns have been eliminated.
Of the bunting, Stark said: “I know I could buy the same stuff at Wal-Mart for $25, but it’s not the same . . . The bunting I’ll bring out on the Fourth of July. The seats I might put out on the porch, which is covered.”
Stark was like countless others who wanted a piece of Rosenblatt to take home. Many of them were locals like West Pierce, who purchased a concession gazebo ($550) and two aluminum bleacher seats (for $175 and $150, respectively).
“The gazebo was going up for bid right as I was driving into the parking lot,” said Pierce, who was on the phone with his wife as he arrived. “My wife said, ‘Do I bid?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ "
Pierce waited around for a couple of hours to get the benches. His plan is to put them in the back yard with the gazebo adjacent to a flowerbed.
“I’m going to have a nice little Rosenblatt corner,” Pierce said.
He isn’t alone.