Whether he was hosting Bob Hope or hitting home runs against professional Japanese ballplayers, Stanley Fabiano always performed his duties in the U.S. Air Force with an eye on making sure that his fellow service members had all the high-quality supports and entertainment they deserved.
Fabiano was among Homeland Center residents honored for their military service at Homeland’s 2016 Veterans Day ceremony.
The San Jose, California, native served first, in Korea in 1955 and then went to Japan for two and a half years, starting in 1956. He was an Air Force second lieutenant, having served in ROTC while studying at San Francisco State University. He had also played baseball in college and on a farm team of the San Francisco Seals, the famous Pacific Coast League team that produced Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.
In the Air Force, Fabiano served in personnel services, overseeing all sports activities and escorting USO troupes. In Japan, he guided Bob Hope, Hope’s wife Dolores, and his cast members on their tour. Hope “was very friendly, very nice.”
“He makes you very comfortable when you talk to him,” Fabiano says. “And he had a very nice wife.”
On that tour, his primary job was assuring that cast members had a good time. Like what? “I don’t want to tell,” he says, but immediately admits he was joking. Mostly, they went to Tokyo nightclubs to watch elaborate floor shows.
His varied assignments included burning worn-out military currency, and carrying satchels holding about $60,000 worth of payroll funds on train rides to outlying sites.
At Johnson Air Base, north of Tokyo, Fabiano continued playing baseball on the base team. The outfielder and pitcher once hit three home runs in a game against a Japanese professional team. As he rounded the bases each time, he’d hear the Japanese players express their appreciation of a good hit. “Nice battah,” they’d say.
In 1959, Fabiano returned to the states. At a North Carolina base, he oversaw such activities as the base movie theater and library. He also visited the families of service members killed on duty to explain the benefits owed them. That, he admits, was a difficult job that he didn’t like.
The base didn’t have a baseball team, but he managed its fast-pitch softball team. Much of his life, he has taught young ballplayers, including coaching his son’s Little League team. He tried to teach confidence. If he saw kids who didn’t get support from home, he’d give them the discipline and structure they needed. One rambunctious boy, unwanted by other teams, helped his team win their championship, and the boy called it the best day of his life.
After retiring from the Air Force as a captain, Fabiano worked a career in sales, and also spent a short time in the 1970s as assistant to the president of Little League Baseball. Today, he enjoys Homeland, where the food is good and the people are “very, very friendly.” His wife, Terry, lives in their Camp Hill home, and his two adult children live in Georgia.
He is proud of his time serving in the U.S. Air Force.
“I can honestly say I had the best military experience you could have, considering that you were going into the service,” he says. “I’m proud of the fact that I was able to have an effect on people’s lives.”