If you think you’ve been at your job for a long time, think again.
Stan Bronson Jr. has been the bat boy for the baseball team at the University of Memphis for more than half a century. He holds the “most durable bat boy” title in the Guinness Book of World Records, has a retired jersey on the outfield wall, and is a beloved icon to generations of students and Tigers fans.
To acknowledge Bronson’s years of service, at the end of the seventh inning of each home game, Bronson stands on home plate, tips his hat and takes a bow.
Bronson has a speech impediment, mild palsy and a mental disability. Bronson says before he came to the U of M, he was fired from the athletics department at Rhodes College.
“They didn’t like my attitude,” Bronson said.
Bronson’s mother, Irma, brought her son over to the U of M to speak with Memphis football coach Billy “Spook” Murphy.
“Coach Murphy tells the story that Stan said, ‘I need a job,’” recounted longtime Memphis associate athletic director Bob Winn. “Coach Murphy said, ‘Well, son, I’m sorry but I don’t have money in my budget to pay for anybody else. And Stan said, ‘Don’t need money. Need a job.’”
Since Bronson’s arrival on campus, many in the community look out for him. Fans have taken him out to eat, and players give the honorary bat boy a ride since he doesn’t have a car. Most recognize “Stan the Man” on campus by his signature “Hi you!” greeting.
Even the Tigers' Division I head coach Daron Schoenrock acts as a chauffeur for the team’s bat boy.
“A lot of times he’ll be leaned against my truck door when I come out of the office building in time to come over to practice,” Schoenrock said. “He knows a lot about the game of baseball from seeing so many games. He’s seen more baseball games than anybody in our dugout.”
Bronson has played in more than 2,500 games. That’s more than Lou Gehrig’s Major League Baseball record for consecutive games played. When the university built its new baseball field, FedExPark, three years ago, they created a steel cage next to the dugout especially for Bronson, which is nicknamed “Bronson’s Bungalow.”
Bronson’s Bungalow wasn’t a part of the original blueprint. “To keep Stan protected I think they created the little chain-link area where his chair is,” Winn explained, “so that balls fouled off would not hit Stan and hurt him.”
When Bronson’s mother passed away, she left a trust and house for her son. Bronson has a lifetime pass to the university’s cafeteria, and the athletic training staff sees to his medical needs. But there are growing concerns.
“Stan is not on Medicare, Medicaid, Tenncare. He’s not on anything, and he doesn’t have insurance,” explained Beverley Dunn, the Tigers fan who put together Bronson’s application for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Bronson has never collected a paycheck and is not eligible for social security or disability. This past year, Bronson’s annual birthday party doubled as a fundraiser to offset future medical costs.
“And so, we’re very fortunate that Stan has not had any major medical problems. Stan doesn’t take any kind of medicine. He doesn’t wear glasses,” Dunn said, laughing. “In a way, he’s kind of a medical miracle for his age.”
Bronson no longer lives with caretakers in his childhood home, due to the rising costs of repairs. The university moved him into an independent living community, where his room has a view of campus. It’s the first time he’s lived on his own. And the very social Bronson doesn’t like being by himself.
“I don’t want to live by myself. I lock the door at night when I go to bed,” said Bronson.
Socializing has kept the 84-year-old going. Bronson holds a record for durability, yet he was never expected to live to even a quarter of his age.
“I remember his mother telling us one time, that when Stan was a very young child, that the family physician told her that Stan’s life expectancy would be eight or nine years,” said Winn. “We think, really, quite frankly, that athletics has kept Stan alive and going.”
During the spring season, as he has for 55 years, Bronson watches the Tigers play from the sidelines.
Now in his sturdy enclosure, the honorary bat boy can look into right field and view his retired jersey, as fans cheer for the hometown hero.
Sara Hoover is a University of Memphis graduate student.