Tag Archives: National Basketball Association

Omaha is a Pro When it Comes to Amateur Sports

January 21, 2019 by

Anybody who knows anything about Omaha’s sports history knows the name Bob Gibson. One of Omaha’s most notable athletes, Gibson started as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1957; everyone expected him to have a future in the National Basketball Association. After all, he was a standout basketball player at Technical High School and later Creighton University.  But Gibson’s career changed to baseball when the St. Louis Cardinals offered him a contract. In 1959, he made his Major League Baseball debut.

One of the highlights of Gibson’s pitching career was a recorded 17 strikeouts during Game 1 of the 1968 World Series. Gibson’s success that season sparked fundamental changes in the rules of baseball—sometimes known as the “Gibson Rules.” The MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound by five inches and reduced the strike zone height from the batter’s armpits to his jersey letters. Who would have thought a kid from Omaha would one day have such an impact on the game?

Throughout Omaha’s history, local fans have cheered homegrown athletes like Gibson, NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, NBA player Kyle Korver, and welterweight world champion Terence Crawford as they climbed the sports ladder to become professional athletes. Today, Omaha continues to embrace amateur athletes and their fans as the city hosts events such as the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, NCAA basketball, volleyball tournaments, wrestling tournaments, and the NCAA Men’s College World Series.

The city even embraces the youngest of athletes during events like Slumpbusters, a little league tournament that attracts more than 500 youth baseball teams from across the country. In February each year, Omaha hosts more than 400 high school teams from across the country for the annual President’s Day Volleyball tournament. Youth sporting events use baseball fields, volleyball courts, and sporting facilities throughout the metro area.   

These sporting events are fun for young athletes and their families, but are also good for business. When an out-of-state team competes in Omaha, the team, their fans, out-of-town media, and officials stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in stores. In fact, recent research revealed a party of three visiting Omaha for a sporting event, on average, stays four days and spends $1,298—that’s more than the average business traveler, or average family of three visiting for a fun weekend, typically spends.

The next time you are sitting in the stands watching a basketball game, cheering at a baseball tournament, or witnessing an amazing swimming performance, keep this in mind—you may be sitting next to a visitor who is helping to boost Omaha’s economy as you both cheer on the next generation of hall-of-famers.


Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

This column was printed in the February/March 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Play Ball!

September 18, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mancuso: a name revered in the Omaha area for their family’s event planning business, Mid-America Expositions. 

From hosting grand events in Omaha’s late Civic Auditorium to formulating events like “Taste of Omaha,” the Mancusos’ impact has been felt in the Omaha area for more than 50 years. It is their passion for sports, however, that has held the family together. 

Youngest son Mike says his father, Bob Sr., grew up in Omaha with a heavy interest in sports thanks to Mike’s grandfather, Joe, being in charge of the city parks. Mike also says because his father grew up in a time without television and video games, sports were something he could easily focus on.

Bob Sr. took his passions to Kansas State University on a wrestling scholarship and later qualified to wrestle at the 1956 Olympic trials. However, before the trials started, Joe fell sick and passed away; Bob Sr. needed to move back to the area. Bob Sr. took a job coaching wrestling at Bellevue High School (now Bellevue East). He led the team to their first state championship, and within a few years, the University of Nebraska offered him a job coaching wrestling in Lincoln.

“Bob Devaney was just hired as the head football coach in 1962 and Frank Sevigne was the track coach, so he was just really enjoying the new environment and coaching at the time, as were us kids,” Mike says.   

Since their days in Lincoln, the Mancuso family has owned tickets to every season of Nebraska football.

“When my dad started coaching at Nebraska in the ’60s, he got a couple of seats for every football game,” Mike says. “We’ve kept those seats every year since it’s a tradition of ours to attend every game, through the good and the bad.”

Mike says he best remembers Saturdays at Memorial Stadium with his dad.

One October 1994 game in Lincoln has remained apparent in his mind.  

“It was a huge Big 8 matchup with Colorado, and Brook Berringer got the call at quarterback because Bobby Newcombe wasn’t feeling too good,” Mike says.  “We had the tunnel walk and HuskerVision for the first time, and [then] Colorado came out before we [Nebraska] came out onto the field. And because of that, I can just remember the stadium…going absolutely nuts.” 

For most games, the Mancusos have traveled to Memorial Stadium from Omaha. The family’s residence in Lincoln was cut short, in part due to Mike entreating his father to move home.

“1964 is when our family decided to move back to Omaha, since coaching, at the time, wasn’t paid in a substantial amount like it is today,” Mike says with a laugh. “I inspired our dad to start [Mid-America Expositions] and come to Omaha to start managing events.”

Mike and his older brothers, Bob Jr. and Joe, took their Cornhusker pride and athletic passion to the ball diamonds and courts of Omaha. Bob Sr. was also a prominent figure in the Omaha sports community.

“We grew up around Omaha sports, playing in a variety of different leagues,” Mike says. “Like his dad, my dad also coached a lot, mainly because he loved teaching. He also was very involved in the Greater Omaha Sports Committee, originated by my uncle Charlie, and continued by my dad after Charlie’s death.”

Mike says his dad’s involvement in the Greater Omaha Sports Committee created many surreal experiences as a child, where he and his brothers worked as bat, and ball, boys for Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association exhibition games.

“I remember one time I was a ball boy underneath the hoop and Sam Lacey was the big center and ‘Tiny’  Nate Archibald was the little guard,” Mike says, speaking of two Kansas City Kings players. “During the game, Lacey went after a ball and tumbled into the stands, causing everyone to [launch] their pops, creating a mess. I had to get my towel out and clean it up in front of everybody.”  

At the core of the Greater Omaha Sports Committee, and the city, was the College World Series. Bob Sr. and fellow committee members often held a welcome luncheon for all the participating teams, hoping to provide unforgettable experiences in Omaha.

The Mancusos’ contribution and involvement in college baseball’s grand series carried on throughout the tournament as Mike and his brothers helped to enhance the experience in any way possible. 

“We would run the dugouts, trying to clean them up between each game,” Mike says. “We worked the fields, and if we had time, would run up and clean the press box. Up there we took care of the press by giving them something to eat and plenty of water to drink at the games. We’ll just say I made a lot of Zesto runs.”

A newspaper clipping from Wilmer Mizell’s appearance in Omaha

One time his father even gave up their family’s premier seats to former Saint Louis Cardinals pitcher and U.S. congressman Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell.

“Ben Mizell came in for breakfast one morning before the games to speak in front of some of the players who were involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” Mike says.  “After the speech, my dad generously told him to take our seats, kicking my brothers and I out.  Luckily, there were spots up top in the GA [general admission] section, and at that age we liked to run around anyway.”

Like Bob Sr., his three boys also played college sports. Mike inherited his father’s passion for wrestling, taking his talents to Iowa State University. Bob Jr. also took the Mancuso name to Ames, though for baseball, while Joe played baseball at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Although the brothers now longer watch sports with their dad, who passed away in 2015, in many ways, sports act as a microcosm in demonstrating the core aspects of family, which is why the Mancuso brothers’ passion in athletics ceases to fade.


Visit showofficeonline.com for more information.

This article was printed in the August/September 2018 edition of B2B.

A souvenier given to CWS teams