Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rourke Park

Did you know that Rosenblatt was not the first popular baseball park in our neighborhood. 

The story begins in 1867, when Issac Skinner Hascall, a former New York Lawyer, purchased thirteen acres of forest land for an “amusement center”. This was just one of his projects in this area, but more on that story later. Following nearly 30 years of on again off again Omaha baseball leagues, Mr. Hascall designed the 1899 Western Leagues’, Nonpareil Stadium. The grand stand and bleachers of the Nonpareil could hold 3,600 fans. The team was originally co-owned and co-managed by William “Pa” Rourke and Colonel Buchanan Keith, but after personal differences “Pa” Rourke bought out Keith’s share and proceeded to lead the team. Pa’s team finished their first season winning 17 of their last 18 games and by 1904 won its’ first pendant after winning 15 consecutive games and finishing 90-60.

From the Nonpareil Stadium to Rourke Park, and later from Vinton Street Park to League Park,  like many things in that era, the neighbrohood name of the park followed the headings of the local newspaper.  Regardless of the name, Omaha’s baseball history was rather unstable prior to the construction of the Nonpareil Stadium, and thanks to this Mr. Hascall’s vision of an amusement center along Vinton, our area was on the map in Omaha baseball history. 

If you look below you can see a 1918 Circa map of “Rourke Park”. Looking at this map you are likely thinking, “this park looks like it could hold more than 3,600 fans”. Well it could, in fact the park you see below could hold 7,500 fans. Next month, I will tell you the second half of this story and unfortunately, the baseball parks’ history has a sad ending. 

If you wish to read more of Omaha baseball history, you should get Devon Niebling and Thomas Hyde's Baseball in Omaha. This great little book is full of pictorials and includes the story of Rourke Park and many others. You can get a used copy at the link provided for around $8, but I would splurge and get a new one for $16. Thanks Mr. Niebling and Mr. Hyde for helping others learn about this part of our neighborhood's history.  For Nebraska Baseball history, visit a website hosted by Bruce Esser, Nebraska Baseball History. At this website there is an abundance of history on Nebraska baseball's fields. leagues, and players.

Oscar Duran: Deer Park President

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