I'M NOT SURE when I fell in love with Stan. It might have been when he lamented to Larry Merchant, then sports editor of the Daily News, that he met a girl, "who's used to guys with normal hours and fat wallets."

Neither of which he had.

Or it might have been when I read a column in which he described Harry Litwack, Temple University's basketball coach known for showing no emotion even during a roller-coaster game, as being like "a blind man at a nudist colony."

Or it might have been when he was humble enough to let me write a column for the Daily News called "A Filly Covers the Races," in which I debunked his meticulous strategies for choosing winners at the track. I advocated relying on hunches: I pinpointed Carol's Baby because my friend, Carol, was having a baby. The horse won handily.

Recently, my 8-year-old granddaughter dropped into her parents' room at 6:30 in the morning, and announced, "I love words. I love reading them, I love saying them, I love writing them and I love making them up."

I have to think she inherited that from her grandfather, someone who has spent his working life crafting the words that precisely describe a person or a scene, words that make a difference in the way his readers think and feel about sports. I love that he is as passionate and enthusiastic about a good story today as he was 50 years ago and that he embraces each new challenge.

If I had to describe Stan in one word, it would be integrity. His longtime readers know they can depend on him to be honest and fair even if they don't always agree with what he says or writes. Whether it is on radio, on television or on the printed page, what you get from him is what my grandmother called the emes, the truth.

The emes is that Stan is not only a superb writer and broadcaster with a distinctive, resonant voice, but beneath that sometimes gruff exterior, is a big-hearted, loving husband, father and grandfather. In fact, he will tell anyone who will listen, that his best times are making dinner for his "girls," his daughter, Anndee, his daughter-out-law, Elissa, his granddaughter, Sasha Rose, and me.

I'm excited about more dinners, more incisive columns and his razor-sharp analysis of what's going on in the world of sports. I never tire of reading his words or hearing his voice. His fans tell me they feel the same way. *