John DeMott is a familiar name to long-time San Diego Padres fans. He worked for years as the sports director at KCBQ but is best known as the Padres second PA announcer. We had reached out to John a couple months ago to talk about his career, thoughts on baseball and how it has changed over the years and his favorite memories about the San Diego Padres.
We spent the first part of the interview talking about his early work and how he became the Padres PA announcer. It was a lot different from the gimmick the Padres turned their PA hiring into this season. We hope you enjoy hearing from John DeMott.
Padres360: Okay. Start off with where were you born? Where did you grow up?
John: Born in Los Angeles and actually grew up first of all in New York. I was born in ’42 and at the time, my dad was working for a paper that was based in New York. And so, my mom just went west to be with her family for the birth of the baby. And then it was right back to New York. So, I lived in New York for about the first 10-11 years of my life.
Padres360: So, I take it then maybe you a Yankee fan to begin with?
John: I was. And my dad, at the time in the early 50s, was working for CBS and was involved in the production side of the Yankee telecasts. And so, I got to go to the ballpark quite a bit. I was in Yankee Stadium the day they retired number 5, so that’s certainly a memory I have.
Padres360: Oh, man, to have actually been at that game. Gosh, that’s really cool. So, as you go through high school, did you go to college? What was your education back then?
John: I didn’t. In 1955 we went back to L.A. So I went to middle school and high school in L.A. Took a shot at Glendale College but wasn’t very disciplined and so I dropped out of college after a semester.
Padres360: When did you first start working in baseball?
John: 1970 was the year Buzzie hired me to be the PA guy.
Padres360: Now, how did the tryouts work back then? How did you end up getting the job?
John: There was no real tryout. At the time, I was also the Sports Director at KCBQ Radio. And so, Buzzie when he came into San Diego from L.A., he did a pretty smart thing. He went around the various media people just to get input because the ’69 season had been such a disaster with only 500,000 people at the ballpark. Buzzie was asking various media people that he’d become friendly with for input on what could happen to make things better. And one of my comments to Buzzie was, and this was with all due respect to John Bowman who was the PA announcer that first year, was that I thought the presentation in the ballpark was just very boring. Traditional baseball presentation in stadiums was just dull. And so, he asked me what I thought I could do to improve it.
Aside: John was happy to share thoughts with Buzzie. Before he had arrived in San Diego, he had worked in Yuma for nearly three years in television. He had also done PA work for Arizona Western College as their football and basketball announcer. According to John, that’s where he developed what he coined, his “hotdog style.” He said it became very popular with the fans. Buzzie then invited John to Spring Training to PA a couple of games. John accepted the offer!
John: I did that sort of enthusiastic call, you know, how I did my introductions and stuff. And you know honestly, I didn’t think he’d like it because he was a traditional baseball guy and he was a John Ramsey guy (the L.A. PA). But even Ramsey had more of a characteristic. He didn’t do what I did, but he had his own characteristics, which set him apart from other PA guys. So, even the Dodgers style in L.A. in those years was different than what was going on in most of the ballparks around the country. There was Bob Sheppard in New York who had his own distinctive style and sound. Sheppard had his zero pipes as far as an announcer was concerned but he had a very distinctive style. And there was the guy in Boston – I can’t remember his name – but he was very down and deep into his pipes and had a distinctive style. So, I think that’s what sold Buzzie on the idea that there needed to be some distinction. There needs to be something special. The ballpark experience needs to be something more than just winning and losing.
John: Because we all know that for several years to come, and I’m saying this to Buzzie, “Buzzie, you know you’re not going to win here for a long time. It takes time to take an expansion team and,” because at that time the expansion system was really detrimental to the expansion team.
Padres360: Oh yeah.
John: Owners did everything they could to keep expansion teams from from improving. And so, my whole sales pitch to Buzzie was, “You’ve got to think more about the ballpark experience. The fans have to be able to relate to more than just the winning and losing aspect of it,” which was also always the concept in Minor League Baseball. In Minor League Baseball the owner has no control whatsoever over the quality of his team. The organization provides him with the team. But the owner of the team still has to go out and sell the tickets and figure out ways to get people to come to the ballpark. And so, Minor League owners for years have done things to make the ballpark experience go beyond just what happens on the field. And so, that was basically my pitch to him and he bought it. He hired me.
So that’s how it all began for John DeMott with the Padres. We had a wonderful conversation with John and he shared some great memories of working with the Padres in those early days. We plan to share some more of his perspectives over the coming months so stay tuned!