UPDATE: Greg Pivovar’s Stadium View Sports Cards store was left high and dry when Rosenblatt Stadium was closed and the College World Series moved downtown to TD Ameritrade Park, but he does have a presence near the new site courtesy a tent set-up. My story below appeared on the eve of the 201o CWS, as Pivovar, whose shop stood directly across the street from Rosenblatt, prepped for his last dance with the old stadium.
As the College World Series enters the stretch run of the 2010 championship, I offer this story as a slice-of-life capsule of the local color that can be found in and around the event and its festival-like atmosphere. The subject is Greg Pivovar, who runs a sports memorabilia shop called Stadium View Sports Cards, across from Omaha‘s Rosenblatt Stadium, the venue where the CWS has been played for 60 years. This is the stadium’s last at-bat, so to speak, as it’s scheduled to be torn down next year, when the event moves to the new downtown TD Ameritrade Park. The ‘Blatt’s last hurrah is inspiring all manner of nostalgic farewells. Pivovar will be sad to see it go too, but he’s not the sentimental sort. In fact, he’s the cynical antidote to the otherwise perpetually cheery facade the city, the NCAA, and College World Series Inc. like to spin about the series, an event that Omaha has catered to to such an extent that there’s a fair amount of skepticism and animosity out there. Pivovar loves the series and the business it brings him, and he loves serving in the unofficial role of CWS ambassador for visitors from out of state, but he’s not Pollyannish about the event or the powers-that-be who run it. He just kind of says it like it is. His blog, stadiumview.wordpress.com, is a hoot for the way he skewers sacred cows.
I have posted another CWS story about a father and son legacy tied to the event.
The Little People‘s Ambassador at the College World Series
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally appeared in the The Reader (www.thereader.com)
Stadium View Sports Cards proprietor Greg Pivovar makes a colorful ambassador for the College World Series with his Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and blue-streak S’oud Omaha patter. This bona fide character champions “the little people who built” the CWS.
Enter his sports memorabilia shop across from Rosenblatt and his course, cranky, world-weary sarcasm greets you, his barbs delivered with a stiff drink in one hand and a cell phone in the other. He talks like he writes on his stadiumview.wordpress.com blog.
“A lot of it is funny and cynical, but a lot of it is from my heart,” he said..
His shop’s a popular way stop for CWS fans craving authentic Omaha. He’s dispensed free beer since opening the joint 19 years ago. “It’s meant as a gesture of friendship and welcome, not as, Hey, you want to stand around and get drunk here? Part of the ritual,” he said. In 2006 he “took a cheap ass plea” on a ticket scalping charge he claims was bogus. He said the company he keeps is what got him in trouble.
“I have a bunch of scalpers who hang around here,” he said. “They’re friends of mine. I like them, they’re an interesting breed of human being.”
The arrest made headlines. A recent AP story that went viral called him a one-man CWS welcoming committee. Ryan McGee profiled him in the book The Road to Omaha.
“Famous…infamous, I’ve been both,” said Pivovar.
His uncensored ways hardly conform to the Norman Rockwell image the NCAA prefers.
Pivovar, who also serves homemade barbecue and enchiladas during the CWS, and cooks up a mean jambalaya whenever LSU makes it, feels he contributes to a “festival atmosphere.” Vendor and hospitality tents dot the blue collar neighborhood, where enterprising residents make a sweet profit charging for parking spots and refreshments.
The NCAA’s tried distancing the CWS from the commercial, party vibe. A clean zone will be easier to enforce with the move to TD Ameritrade Park next year.
“Piv” likes a good time but acknowledges all “the temporary bars” can be “a negative,” adding, “There’s a few too many people coming down here just to get drunk, and that’s not the idea. That sounds hypocritical coming from a guy who’s given 40,000 beers away, but it really isn’t. Most of my beers are given away one, maybe two at a time.”
The Creighton University Law School grad and former Sarpy County public defender has a private practice he puts on hold for the series. This being Rosenblatt’s last year, he’s stocked extra beer for the record hordes expected to say adieu to the stadium.
His own ties to Rosenblatt go back to childhood. His collecting began with baseball cards, sports magazines, game programs, signed balls. He got serious after college, traveling to buy and sell wares. Eventually, he said, “my collection was pretty much overrunning my home. I’m a hoarder. I needed a place to store my hobby.” Thus, the store was born, although he insists: “It’s not a business, it’s never been a business. I don’t make any money at this, I never have. It’s kind of like a museum.”
Most of his million or so cards, he said, “are just firewood.”
What business he does do largely happens during the CWS. Even then he said I “barely pay the bills.” He doesn’t know what he’ll do after the ‘Blatt’s gone and the series moves downtown. “I’d love to carry my hobby down there but…If somebody comes and shits a couple hundred thousand dollars on my face it might happen, but other than that…”
If he closes shop, he’s unsure what will become of his stuff.
“I don’t even want to think about it. I suppose I could throw it all on e-bay and get a mere pittance for it. That’s the way that works. So much of it has zero to such a narrow market, and I knew that going in. It’s not like I was having any allusions of getting rich from this.”
He’s pissed about the “Blatt’s demise and suspects the new site will usher in a sterile, elitist era.
“I’m a conspiracy theorist. What this is all about is developing that north area (NoDo) and wanting to give the zoo what they need. The bastards are taking my ballpark. Like I end a lot of my blogs, I’ve got so many days until my world’s over. It’s kind of like writing your own obituary.”
At least he has his health. He’s cancer-free after a bout with cancer.
The “Save Rosenblatt” t-shirts he carried have been replaced with ones reading: “To Hell with Rosenblatt, Save Stadium View.”
Stadium View is at 3702 So. 13th St.
- College World Series Is Moving On (nytimes.com)
- College World Series is Omaha’s party central (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Rosenblatt Stadium memories will live on (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Vermont couple ties knot during CWS rain delay (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- 1st game at new Omaha ballpark sells out in hours (seattletimes.nwsource.com)