Remembering Stan

As a writer and a part time babbling radio talking head, one can’t afford to be at a loss for words. . .

. . . but I am now.

With the passing of my dear friend Stan Sandroni, my little world just seems a little bleaker, a little more blasé, a little less fun and a lot less interesting.

One-of-a-kind is a tired, overused cliché, but it fits Stan to a tee and it is his uniqueness that I will remember him in life and in his passing.

Words are not enough to describe Stan, a high-strung ball of energy with an infectious, straight forward personality who just seemed to draw people to him. He could be gruff, he could be cantankerous and he could be stubbornly opinionated, but he was all heart. He led with it, and how do you not love people like that?

Ultimately, it was that very big heart that let him down and that is the irony of the too-short, memorable life of Stan Sandroni.

After drinking my way out of Ole Miss after one semester, I landed at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, where Stan was already making his mark on the broadcasting world as the young DSU play-by-play man for every Statesmen team.

I can remember many days listening to his DSU baseball broadcasts. Me and my buddies would get a case of cheap wine. Stan would say “into the wind” when a pitcher started his delivery, but sometimes it sounded like “into the wine,” so we were required to take a chug. Needless to say, we rarely made it past the fifth inning because “into the wind” was one of his signature catch phrases for baseball. Oh, the hangovers, compliments of our overindulgence and Mr. Stan Sandroni.

He also owned a local bar, Stan’s Press Box, where I left quite a bit of my social security check and scholarship money. It was the place to be if the drink and women were your things.

Little did I know that Stan and I would continue to cross paths, both indirectly and directly, for the rest of his life.

After college, I moved to Greenville, MS, and Stan had become the GM of the first television station in that town. His newscasts and editorials, when pushed into that role, were spot on and the station grew under his leadership.

After two partners and I started The Ole Miss Spirit in 1982 from Leland, MS, we found it necessary to move one of us – me – to Oxford in ‘86. Not long afterward then Ole Miss SID Langston Rogers, a very close friend who was previously the SID at DSU during Stan’s tenure, recommended Sandroni to Ole Miss to be the sideline reporter.

He got the job and the rest is Rebel broadcast history as he exhibited a distinctive, passionate and informative style. I know this because hundreds of people through the years have told me so. In another twist of personal irony, I never heard a Rebel football broadcast in his 25 full years on the sidelines because I was down there with him, many times side-by-side, and did we have some times.

Stan is one of the few people I know who had more passion for Ole Miss sports than I do. We laughed, anguished, celebrated and fussed about Rebel football for a quarter of a century on those sidelines.

I used to tease him about always running to get behind the goalposts on every field goal try. Me: “Stan, the refs are going to tell you if the kick is good or not.” Stan: “They don’t always get it right.” Point taken.

A little secret. There have been times when Stan was distracted from the action checking on an injury or what have you, and a big play would take place. They were rare, but they happened once or twice a year. Voice of the Rebels David Kellum, another close friend of Stan’s, would come to him on the sidelines for a comment and Stan would lip sync to me “what happened?” I would give him sign language and he would start talking. For instance: hold up five fingers and lip sync QB sack. “Robert Nekmdiche just shook two blockers and had a bone-jarring quarterback sack, David. Outstanding play by the sophomore,” he’d ad lib.

Nobody would ever know the difference because he was that convincing in his delivery.

Twenty-one years ago, Kellum, Sandroni and I came up with the idea for Rebel Yell Hotline, an Ole Miss talk show that would be optimistically objective about the Rebels. The thinking was that there were enough talking heads taking shots at Ole Miss athletics, let’s present a more positive side.

Kellum had too much on his plate and bowed out after a couple of years, leaving me and Stan to carry it on. From that point on, it was all Stan and he grew it into quite a popular show.

Stan sold it, produced it, marketed it, did all the grunt work, scheduled most of the guests, was the host and grew it by leaps and bounds. From a work standpoint, it was his baby, his pride and joy, and in some ways his professional legacy.

“We” started with one station and now “we” are on 13 ranging from Memphis to the Mississippi Coast. “We” were set to have our most productive year ever in 2014, with a good lineup and good teams to talk about. I put the “we” in quotation marks because I’m being facetious. There was no “we” to it, it was Stan. His effort, his drive, his vision, his everything.

And boy did we have some fun every Monday night.

Rebel Yell Hotline and the sideline reporting will never be the same from this point forward.

Someone will come in and do his jobs and probably do them well and probably establish his own identity and own flare, but there will never be another Stan Sandroni.

I know in my heart Stan would want me to carry on with Rebel Yell Hotline and I will do my best to keep it going, but frankly, I don’t know if I am capable of filling his shoes. I know it will be hard removing the introduction of “now here’s Stan and Chuck,” and I probably won’t for a while. Time will tell if RYH continues or goes away, but it will never be the same.

But right now, who really cares?

My concern, only concern, is with his immediate family, wife Glenda and son Christopher; and his extended family, the real joy and legacy of his life. Rightfully, they are in shock. Despite some recent health issues and a history of some heart problems that were supposedly under control, nobody expected this, nobody.

Christopher came along when Stan was in his late 40’s and you have never seen more happy and doting parents. Stan and Christopher were joined at the hip, it seemed. A prouder father has never existed.

My heart and prayers go out to them and may God see fit to ease their pain as the days go by.

I will miss my friend, my partner, my sideline and RYH buddy, but I won’t forget him.

You can never forget those who are one-of-a-kind.

Rest In Peace, Stan Sandroni.

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