(Publisher’s Note) – When I first met Stan down on the sidelines as a photographer in 2007, he welcomed me as a friend and we talked frequently. I’ll always remember Stan telling me, “Have fun down here, but don’t get run over. Those guys are big!” We here at Rebel Nation Magazine were honored when Chuck Rounsaville said he’d write a feature in memory of his friendship with Stan Sandroni. So without further ado….
When we leave this life, we’d all like to think we’ll be remembered in a meaningful way for our oneness, our individuality, in this cookie-cutter world.
Some of us will be. Some of us won’t.
Stan Sandroni, who passed away on September 10th of a heart attack, does not have that worry.
You see, even though those of us who loved him only had him for 64 years, there has never been a more unique character than Stan.
He is not forgettable.
My own memories of Stan go way back, all the way to 1973 as a student at Delta State University. Even though I didn’t know him personally at the time, I knew his distinctive voice as the play-by-play announcer for Statesmen and Lady Statesmen sports.
The Lady Statesmen basketball team was the best in the land and when they were on the road, broke college students like me would be glued to our radio in our dorms with a six-pack of beer, clinging to Sandroni’s every descriptive word of the action.
Stan was a “one-man-shop” for Delta State athletics broadcasts. He’d have an occasional guest, but his voice became synonymous with anything DSU. Baseball, football and both basketball teams – they were all Stan’s gigs. If you were listening to Delta State, you were listening to Stan.
As is the case with any play-by-play announcer of your favorite team, as a listener, you learn their rhythm, their quirks, their personality. Just as older Ole Miss fans remember Stan Torgerson and current fans recognize David Kellum, for DSU fans, we got to know Stan as if he was our next door neighbor and he was always welcome in our home.
What was so endearing to me personally was Stan’s love of the team he covered. He was a pro in the way he described the action, but there was no question he was partisan of the Statesmen. He was a fan of Delta State and that suited me just fine because I was too.
After college, I maintained the radio connection with Sandroni, but also got to know more about him in a less productive way – as a regular patron of his lounge in Cleveland, MS, “Stan’s Press Box,” the watering hole of choice for the area.
Then, my first athletic love – Ole Miss – intervened. I lost touch with Stan, but as fate would have it, not for long.
Stan’s old pal from Delta State, Sports Information Director Langston Rogers, had “moved up” and taken the same post at Ole Miss and when the Rebels were looking for a sideline reporter/color analyst for the Rebel network, Rogers immediately recommended Sandroni.
The rest is Rebel broadcast history.
For a quarter of a century, Stan stalked the Ole Miss sidelines like a caged lion, pacing back and forth, living and dying with every snap of the football or every bounce of the basketball when he filled in on that broadcast.
I had already been at Ole Miss as the publisher of The Ole Miss Spirit for seven years when Stan came on board. After I told him of my DSU background and how I listened to hundreds of games he had called, we became sideline brothers, instant friends.
We had a common love – Ole Miss sports, a bond that is as strong as it gets.
A few years later, Stan and I were chatting about the state of radio talk shows and we were both lamenting, complaining may be a better word, how it seemed Ole Miss was always the whipping boy of the modern day talk show hosts. They all seemed to be trying to make a name for themselves and the best way to do that was to find a target and stir up controversy.
At the time, it seemed like Ole Miss was an easy mark for criticism and Stan and I were both quite defensive about it. We decided – along with Kellum – to start our own radio talk show and call it Rebel Yell Hotline, a place where Rebel fans could hear the good side of Rebel sports.
For nearly 21 years, we co-hosted Rebel Yell, but make no mistake, it was Stan’s baby. He was the driving force behind the show and through his guidance it has grown into a statewide, and beyond, radio outlet for Rebel news, mostly good news.
Sandroni was a crackerjack advertising salesman for Q 93.7 and Supertalk, but his pride and joy, professionally, was derived from Rebel Yell Hotline.
During those two-plus decades is when I truly got to know and love Stan.
It’s where I learned of his uniqueness.
Stan had a gruffness and directness about him that was uncommon. He was not bashful to tell you when you were messing up, but he was also quick with a compliment when you were doing well, and he did both with humor.
He was one of the few people I have known who could criticize you and make you feel good about it. Sandroni reminded me of a rooster in a barnyard, in perpetual motion, constantly surveying his turf and making sure everything was in order.
He was a conundrum – a perfectionist with faults, but he recognized and could easily make light of his miscues in a self-deprecating way. For the consummate radio man, his enunciation could be brutal, like trying to read the names of foreign tennis players, for instance, but he was pro enough to gloss over it and nobody would know or the ones who did would laugh with him.
Like most Southerners, he had quirks with his diction, but it was part of his character, his personae, and it endeared people to him. We had a great time making fun of each other’s human foibles and imperfections.
Stan and I both, in the heat of the moment on an Ole Miss sideline, could let out a string of expletives that would make a sailor blush, but never once in his 40-something years on radio did he ever have a profanity slip on air. That, in itself, was a remarkable feat, almost a miracle, actually.
Technology? Sorry, but that wasn’t Stan’s bag. The day he passed away, he still had a flip phone and all his texts, when he finally broke down and learned how to text, were in capital letters because he didn’t know how to send them any other way.
He had no numbers stored in his phone. As many clients as he had and as many people as he knew, he remembered everyone’s number by heart. Amazing to me, considering I can’t remember my own cell number.
A computer? Sandroni was as scared of a computer as I am a cottonmouth when I’m wade fishing for crappie out at Sardis Lake. Everything was handwritten and kept in files. He still used a Rolodex.
The very last press conference he recorded, he still used a big cassette recorder the size of a cigar box. Digital technology meant zero to Stan and members of the media used to chide him about it, but he just stayed in stride doing his thing beautifully with the tools he was comfortable with.
But even though he was technologically stuck in the 1970s, he was a detail man and his details were spot-on. Stan was extremely efficient. He never missed appointments, he was always punctual and he was always prepared for the task at hand.
For all the external grumpiness, Stan had a soft interior, especially when it came to young people and his son Christopher, who he worshipped. He and his beloved wife of 31 years, Glenda, had Christopher when Stan was in his mid-40s and by then his Italian blood had mellowed considerably. You will never find a more doting father. He never missed anything Christopher was involved in. That wasn’t in his DNA. To say he was proud of Christopher would be a gross understatement.
Stan was also a man of faith, a devout Catholic who went to early mass every Sunday and served as an usher in his church. Goodness knows the stories from that segment of his life. His priest told me at the funeral service he would miss Stan holding up his watch arm every Sunday from the back of the church letting him know his time was up for his sermon. Vintage Stan.
Sandroni touched a lot of people, yours truly included, profoundly, as was witnessed by the thousands of people who attended his visitation and/or his funeral service. Not a harsh word was heard.
He left a void in many people’s lives when he passed away, but he also left those of us who loved him with many “only Stan” memories.
And even though I miss him and his absence makes me sad, I can’t help but smile when I think of Stan and I can’t tell you how often someone I don’t even know comes up to tell me a “Stan story,” all hilarious and heartfelt.
Rest in peace, my one-of-a-kind, dear brother.
There will never be another. – RR
*This is just a sample of some of the great stories you’ll find in EVERY issue of Rebel Nation Magazine™. The July/August 2015 Ole Miss Football Preview is now available by subscription and in stores all across MS, TN, AL, AR and LA. You can subscribe online here and receive every issue delivered right to your home of office. The September/October Issue is up next.