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Apr 28, 2016

Frank Morsani is one of the finest men, bar none, with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to spend time. That’s noteworthy because I got to know the Tampa Bay auto dealer at one of the lowest points in his business career, yet he always held his head high. Somewhere around 1989, I started working on my first nonfiction book, Stadium For Rent, the story of Tampa Bay’s decades-long – and enormously frustrating – quest for a Major League Baseball team.

FRANK MORSANI podcast excerpt: “I think it’s pathetic (that Donald Trump is the GOP standard bearer). It’s a tragedy on our system."

Many local business leaders had risen up and been cut to pieces by the ongoing, Quixotic mission, none more memorably than Frank Morsani. He committed and lost millions of dollars trying to convince a string of existing baseball teams to relocate to Tampa – and later, St. Petersburg – to no avail. When MLB announced, in 1993, that it would add two expansion franchises, he seemed a shoe-in. He wasn’t. But you know what made it all the worse? Frank Morsani wasn’t then – and certainly isn’t now – a baseball fan. He was just a kid from Oklahoma who had found a home in Tampa, Florida, a community that welcomed him – loved him, frankly – and if baseball was what his adopted neighbors wanted, he wanted to help them get it.

For a lot of people the Morsani story began and ended with car dealerships and baseball.

FRANK MORSANI podcast excerpt: "Unfortunately, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has taken a lot of positions that I would have problems with. They've been aggressive; I believe in being aggressive. But I think they have gotten away from some of the basics that were important to me (when I was Chairman of the Board). In our whole nation, these extremists on both sides are not in our best interests."

But this kind and gentle soul – and his wife of more than half a century, Carol – have meant so much more to their community, thanks to philanthropic efforts that have included giving millions to the University of South Florida, University of Tampa, Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts, and the Dali Museum. Most recently, the Morsanis gave $20 million to USF for construction of the Morsani College of Medicine soon to rise in downtown Tampa. Morsani – with the help of my friend Dave Scheiber – just published his memoir, To Be Frank: Building the American Dream in Business and Life. It is my great pleasure to help introduce the man and his message to a new audience.

Key interview moments:

• 8:25 Frank Morsani talks about how he picked himself up following his failure to land a Major League Baseball relocation or expansion franchise for the Tampa Bay area in the 1990s;

• 13:55 s a former Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morsani admits he has problems with many of the organization’s current political stances;

• 15:45 And as a lifelong Republican, Morsani calls the party’s turn to Donald Trump as its presidential nominee as “pathetic” and “a tragedy."

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