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Say it ain’t so, Herb, say it ain’t so.

The news that Herb Stanley had listed the iconic Union Pub & Grill with a realtor, transformed me into the little kid from Chicago who beseeched Shoeless Joe Jackson to tell him the Black Sox scandal wasn’t true.

I didn’t want to believe it.

None of the generations of Marshall University students, alumni and student-athletes want to believe it, either.

The legacy of The Union is sacred to Thundering Herd fans.

That’s because it traces its origin all the way back to the El Gato Grill, which opened at 1855 Third Avenue in 1948. It moved to 20th Street in 1969 after 20 years at the previous location and became “The Varsity.”

Next, the iconic spot for Herd students and fans of all ages moved to Fourth Avenue to make way for MU’s new football venue, which became Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

So, the El Gato Grill, The Varsity and The Union Pub & Grill have been patronized by Marshall supporters for 72 years. It is the oldest owned and operated bar in the campus area.

Nobody wants to lose it.

That’s why the news that The Union is listed with the Realty Exchange for a price tag of $700,000 is rather unsettling.

“You know what? said Stanley. “I talked to Shane (realtor Shane Radcliffe) about a year ago. And, then, just kind of blew it off. Then, back in February I got a hold of him again and said, ‘Shane, I’m ready. I’m tired. I’m ready.’

“Then, COVID-19 hit and so we blew it off. Then, when I opened back up, I went back to him and said, ‘Let’s list this.’

“If I don’t list it, I’ll never know if anybody will ever want to buy it. In 39 years, not one person has ever come up to me and said, ‘I would really like to buy this place. Will you sell?’ There’s not a lot of money in Huntington. And I knew that. That’s why I wanted to make sure he (Radcliffe) advertised outside the state.”

The 58-year-old Stanley would like to sell, but he’s not going to give The Union away. If he doesn’t get his price, he won’t sell.”

“I put it out there,” said Stanley. “But I don’t have to sell by any means. I am tired. But if I don’t sell it, I’ll just continue to work. It’s good.”

Stanley is well aware The Union and its ancestry is an iconic place for generations of Marshall alumni and followers.

“It is,” he conceded. “But, again, I’m 58 and I’ve been doing it for almost 39 years. People don’t understand, it’s a hard job. They think it’s a piece of cake. They don’t understand. You’re dealing with over 200 people on a Friday and Saturday night ... it’s not easy. You know what I’m saying? You’ve got a lot of responsibility and it’s a lot of work.

“Like I said, I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll never know until I put it out there for listing.”

In the meantime, business is going on as usual at The Union.

“The only thing COVID-19 has done to me is limit me to 50 percent,” said Stanley. “Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday we’re at capacity. I think we can have 92. So, it hasn’t hurt me a bit. Now, it’s not the same kind of income as I had, but sooner or later this COVID will be over with and we’ll go back to 100 percent. I can’t complain whatsoever.”

It isn’t Stanley’s style.

But he admits the reaction to listing The Union for sale hasn’t been positive.

“Most of my emails and posts on Facebook,” said Stanley, “people are bummed out because I put it up for sale. But I don’t think they understand, I’ve got a life.

“I’m sure someone could go in there and continue to do what I do and it would be just fine. I’d like to go out on top. That’s my goal, so we’ll see what happens.”

As unpretentious as Stanley is, sometimes his modesty gets the better of him.

But the fact of the matter is there’s only one Herb.

And as selfish as it may sound, everyone wants to keep Stanley and his iconic Union Pub & Grill around for a while longer.

Say it ain’t so, Herb, say it ain’t so.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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