Memories of Catfish Hunter

Published 11:52 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2014

By Frank Roberts

I watched the World Series with mixed emotions.

Growing up years in New York, I was a full-fledged New York Giants fan. I took a subway ride to the station in the Bronx that was the stop for Yankee Stadium. Then, I took a shuttle that traveled to only two stations. The last stop was the Giants’ home base, the Polo Grounds.

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The mixed emotions? I was raised a Giants fan, but living in Hertford, N.C., I was also, of course, a Kansas City fan. That was Jimmy “Catfish” Hunter’s first team.

One of my favorite assignments was covering his entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. At the time, I was on another out-of-state story when the powers-that-be, who knew of my friendship with Jimmy, asked if I would be interested in that assignment. I hesitated for about half a second and asked if a fish would be interested in breathing underwater.

I wound up with two decent stories about the historic sports event.

I had known Jimmy since he was a boy. While he was in high school, I broadcast all his football and baseball games. Francis “Panky” Nixon did play-by-play like a stand-up comic. I handled the “Double-C” — color and commercials.

Our broadcast booth was about the size of a small broom closet, and we had to climb a rickety ladder to get there. One of the things I did when the action slowed down was to invite the football cheerleaders up for interviews. One was my niece, Ann.

Another was Helen Overton, who later became Mrs. Jimmy Hunter.

I still see her regularly at church, downtown, around town. She is a thoroughly sweet lady who greets everyone with a smile and hug. She is active at Hertford Baptist Church.

So was Jimmy, and one of my most cherished pictures was taken during an Easter play with six of us men dressed as in days of old.

By the way, if you ever visit Hertford be sure to see the Jimmy Hunter Museum, located downtown in the Chamber of Commerce building. One of the items, and I don’t know how they got it, was one of my reporter’s notebooks with scribbles from a story I did on Jimmy.

Kudos to Exile and Juice Newton for an excellent concert at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts recently. Newton is in her mid-50s, but can outsing most of today’s over-publicized prima donnas. The audience was enthusiastic.

It was, as the song goes, “a grand night for singing.” (That’s from the movie “State Fair” — the only time Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote a score for a film, rather than for a stage show).

Some canine entertainment history: Rin Tin Tin was paid more than eight times his human co-stars.

John Wayne won many a World War II battle on screen. But Douglas Fairbanks earned medals from the U.S. Navy, France, and Britain for his role in the amphibious assault on the French coast.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at