John DeMott is best remembered for his shotgun call of Padres players names as they came out of the dugout to start the game. His call of Padres shortstop #11 E-N-Z-O- Hernandez is remembered by Padres fans of the time and may have made Enzo Hernandez more famous than his own play on the field. For me as a Padres fan, he was my first PA announcer for my Padres. For a long time, I had wanted to contact John to ask him about his career and his time with the Padres. John was gracious enough to agree to an interview, but “no shotgun calls as my voice can’t do it anymore” and while I was disappointed that he couldn’t do it, I understood. We spent over 50 minutes talking about his career with the Padres (and an hour and a half more after the recorder was shut off) talking about baseball, sports, and life. During our interview, he discussed an event that happened that he was a part of that has been written about many times, but not quite accurately in John’s opinion. John took me back to April 9, 1974 and the Padres home opener to talk about the night Ray Kroc apologized to fans for the poor play of his team….
John – I say that game took me way past my tools. The exposure I got from the results of that game made me nationally known. I became one of the few nationally known PA guys because of it and of course, it was tied to my career. By then, I had become established as a radio sports guy in San Diego, but that night was unbelievable. There is more misconception about that night and the lore about that night is much more sensational that what actually happened.
Padres360 – So take us back to what happened and how all of the events of that night transpired.
John – Danny, the usher that was assigned to Ray Kroc’s box, came down to the press box and asked me, “Mr. Kroc would like to talk to the crowd, can you tell me when the best time would be to do that?” It was that innocent. At first, it was blown up that Ray Kroc took over the microphone. Danny just came down and asked me. At that time, I consulted with the folks over in the scoreboard what we had coming up in between the innings stuff. I honestly, don’t remember the inning, but I want to say it was the 4th or 5th inning.
Padres360 – I am sure one of our SABR friends out there knows the inning and the time that it happened.
John – Danny went back and the next half-inning or so he returned with Ray. Ray walks in the booth and my wife and oldest son, Chris, were sitting in the booth with me. They had just come up from downstairs because it was too cold and she was going to take Chris home and so she was sitting there. The PA booth at the time was way down the 1st base line from where the scoreboard control booth was, so it was way offset away from home plate, which is where most PA guys sit. I had a lot of privacy there and it was like my office and it was thoroughly enclosed. Kroc comes in with Danny and he sits to my left because my wife and son were sitting in the two seats to my right. I introduced them to Ray and he was very polite. So it was in between innings and there was plenty going on and it’s determined that after that half inning ends that I would introduce Ray and he would say what he’s going to say.
Padres360 – So now, the half-inning ends and what happens?
John – Ray turned and looked toward me, which gave him a view out toward right field and his back is to home plate and the infield area. To let you know what the mechanics were: the PA microphone was operated by a foot panel that I had control of. So when I handed Ray the mic, I had to depress the foot pedal so he could talk. So I introduced him and handed him the mic and then he starts with his, ”Ladies and gentlemen, I have never seen such stupid ball playing in all my life.” Now, I am looking toward the infield and Ray is looking away from the infield. As he starts to talk, over the 3rd base railing comes a streaker; a guy who is completely nude. He starts running across the infield. Ray doesn’t see this, he is continuing with what he has to say. All of a sudden, the doors open in the booth. The crowd starts to react to the guy running across the field and Ray thinks the crowd is reacting to him. So, he doesn’t see the guy, he just hears this reaction start. About the time he begins to raise his voice to match the enthusiasm of the crowd, the streaker comes into Ray’s view running out to right field with the security guys in hot pursuit. At that point, he forgets what he was talking about with baseball, he starts screaming into the microphone to get the guy out of there and starts going crazy over the guy streaking on the field.
Padres360 – What do you think made him react the way he did?
John – My gut has always told me that Ray was a very moral guy, an older conservative guy, and I honestly believe his reaction got the way it got because my wife and my 5 year old were sitting there with him. He sees this transpiring in front of a woman and a little boy and that is when he began to rant and rave and carry on. At that point in time, I took my foot up off of the pedal. Ray then went back to what he was saying about the game and said thank you and went back to his box.
Padres360 – That’s interesting because the story has almost become folklore and is a lot different from what we’ve heard.
John – Oh yea, it was written about in Sports Illustrated and it became a huge national story and it put me on the map in places other than San Diego. I hadn’t even become established in San Diego yet it – was like my 5th year here. To me, the funniest part of the story was Buzzie. At the time, there had been a water main that blew down in the clubhouse and Buzzie was the kind of guy that had to get into everything, so he was down in the basement when all of this happened and didn’t know it had happened. He comes up the stairs and is met at the elevator by a gaggle of writers wanting to know, “What did you think of what Ray did?” He said, “What are you talking about? What do you mean ‘what Ray did?’” Well, the writers explained it all to him and what Ray said, Buzzie comes to the PA booth a couple of innings later and he starts to rant and rave and get in my face as to how could I let Kroc do this, how did this happen and why did you let him do it. I said Buzzie, it’s his dime.
Padres360 – Of course, he owns the team. You’re not going to tell him what to do.
John – When Buzzie calmed down, he laughed and said that was a good line that … “it’s his dime.”
With that, we hope you enjoyed a look back at a famous night in Padres history as told by John DeMott, our first PA Announcer. We have more stories to come about his thoughts about baseball, people, and players he met and more memories of our San Diego Padres. We hope you enjoyed it.