Jimmy Hyams stories you may not know about the retiring sports radio personality | Adams

·4 min read

My first memory of Jimmy Hyams was on a tennis court in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1981.

I was a columnist/LSU beat reporter for the Morning Advocate, and Jimmy had been hired for a similar role after distinguishing himself as a news reporter in our Lafayette bureau. But I was more interested in his tennis since my main playing partner had left town.

We had time for only one set, which Jimmy won, but I saw little potential in his unorthodox game. He returned virtually every shot, could hit with either hand, but his first serve didn’t have much more steam than his second. I left the court thinking, “He won’t be much of a challenge.”

We played tennis for a few years in Baton Rouge, then resumed our competition in the late 1980s in Knoxville when we worked together at the News Sentinel. We probably played 100 times. I won three matches.

Bad knees forced me to give up tennis more than 20 years ago. Jimmy is still playing and probably still beating players who think they’re better than he is. He will have more time for tennis now that he’s retiring as sport director at WNML – effective March 31 - where he has cohosted a four-hour sports talk show five days a week with John Wilkerson since 1998.

Some people occasionally call me “Jimmy Hyams” by mistake, perhaps because there’s a slight hint of our native Louisiana accent and because I’ve done just enough radio in this market to warrant recognition.

You might know him best for his voice. I know him better as a sportswriter. By the time we reconnected at the same newspaper, he was on his way to becoming one of the best college beat writers in the country.

Jimmy also is a good athlete who excelled at multiple high school sports in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and later played college baseball. Anyone who has had the good fortune to be on his team in a scramble has benefitted from his putting. And his free-throw shooting is legendary.

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Ted St. Martin, who set the world record by making 5,200 consecutive free throws, twice lost free-throw shooting contests to Jimmy at SEC tournaments. A year later, when Tennessee basketball hosted the conference tournament, UT's Gus Manning told Jimmy he wasn’t using St. Martin for halftime entertainment.

“If he can’t beat you, I don’t want him up here,” Manning said.

When I think about Jimmy retiring from his fulltime gig, I don’t think of how successful he has been. I think more about how much fun we had for a few years in Baton Rouge when I was in my 30s and he was in his 20s.

We had each other’s back on the beat, which was challenging since we believed LSU should have been covered with a more critical eye than our bosses did. That eventually led to both of us leaving.

Some of my good intentions in supporting Jimmy didn’t always work out.

He was once assigned to write a story on our annual Louisiana Sportswriters summer meeting, which included writing contests as well as sports competition. Since our department hadn’t fared particularly well in the writing competition, I suggested to Jimmy he make us look as good as he could. I asked if he had won anything.

“I missed winning the bowling championship by one pin,” he said.

“Well, put that in the story,” I said.

About an hour later, I was sitting across the room from Jimmy as our executive sports editor read his story.

“What’s this one-pin crap?” he asked.

I was laughing when Jimmy looked at me.

We were seated next to each other at an NCAA basketball tournament press conference when then-UC Santa Barbara coach Jerry Pimm was on the dais. Jimmy whispered, “I read somewhere that he has his own yacht.”

“Don’t say, ‘yacht,’ ” I’m said, not wanting Jimmy to embarrass himself. “I’m sure it’s just a boat.”

Jimmy then asked Pimm about his boat.

“Actually, it’s a yacht,” he said.

Jimmy glared at me sarcastically.

In 2017, Jimmy and I again were alongside each other at a press conference, this time for then-UT football coach Butch Jones. I held up my hand immediately but was repeatedly ignored by moderator Zach Stipe, who probably was concerned I would ask Jones a tough question.

Jimmy asked me what I was going to ask. When I told him, he said “That’s what I’m going to ask,” and lifted his right hand.

“Jimmy,” Zach called out, as I continued to hold my hand as high as I could.

Jimmy handed me the microphone as Stipe shouted more than once, “No, I said, ‘Jimmy.' ” I then asked my question, and Jones embarrassed himself with an obvious lie about how defensive tackle Shy Tuttle had injured an eye while falling on a helmet.

Thanks for the microphone, Jimmy, and sorry about the bowling pin and yacht.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.om/johnadamskns.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Jimmy Hyams stories: Knoxville sports radio personality is retiring