Jeff Dippold of St. Marys, or Jeff Aaron "The Fish" as he is known to fans of his Seattle, Washington-area sports talk radio show, first took to the airwaves over 30 years ago. In that time, Dippold has hosted and co-hosted shows in stations across the country and says he has interviewed nearly every star athlete in recent history.
Dippold's road to radio began early in childhood with a rapidly developing interest in all things sports and rock and roll. He was the second-youngest of seven children: Wayne, Steven, Joann, Greg, Patty, Kevin, and himself, born to Rose and Thomas Dippold of St. Marys.
"My dad always marveled at me being able to guess the next play in a football game when I was a child. I was a very vocal fan...from an early age I knew I wanted to do something sports-related. I often dreamed of being an Oakland Raiders play-by-play voice," Dippold said.
While he has worked with Seattle sports teams, including the Seahawks and Mariners, Dippold remains an Oakland Raiders fan to this day, citing the influence of St. Marys native Dan Conners, who wore number 55 while playing linebacker for the team.
"I used to visit his family's restaurant as a child and marveled at the Raiders helmets and photos on the walls," Dippold said.
Dippold attended St. Marys Area High School, Class of 1979, where he excelled in athletics as a track and cross-country leader and was a two-time District 9 champion in the mile and two-mile run. It was also at this time that he realized the potential of his budding interest in sports that had by then solidified into a useful skill set.
"In high school I was always the one who was into sports, trivia statistics, and rock and roll music. If anyone had a question, they would come to me," Dippold said.
Today Dippold is known to many in his listening audience as "Mr. Trivia," renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of sports factoids and stats which he uses in hosting a trivia game show in sports bars and casinos in the Seattle area.
Dippold said he initially aspired to be a sportswriter, but while attending Clarion University, where he received his B.S. in Communications, he found his calling when he began working for the college radio station as the voice of the Clarion basketball team.
"My first goal in life was to be a sportswriter, but getting involved in college radio at Clarion changed my direction quickly," Dippold said.
As a member of the sports media, Dippold is an official voter for the Heisman Trophy, what many consider to be college football's greatest honor, as well as the John Wooden Award bestowed on college basketball's player of the year.
In his time in radio, Dippold also recalls memorable interviews with the likes of Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, with whom he hosted a weekly radio show, the late Wilt Chamberlain, Jim Brown, and Tim Tebow, whom he said "called me 'sir' through the entire interview." Dippold said he jokingly told Tebow to stop or else "I wouldn't vote for him for the Heisman Trophy."
While Dippold is reluctant to name-drop, he admitted that it is consistently thrilling to meet and converse with legends and legends-to-be.
"I am just proud I was able to meet so many great people and ask them great questions. I'm very proud of that," Dippold said.
In preparing to interview a subject he researches the individual, digging beneath the surface in looking for talking points on topics other than the thing for which it is they are famous.
"I always try to find something personal or family-oriented about a potential interview subject. If you find something unique about their life, something different than the sport they excel at, they are far more relaxed to open up and talk," Dippold said.
While Dippold said that a relaxed environment away from a post-game locker room helps make for a better interview, he said the key to a good interview and being a good interviewer is simply to listen.
Asked if there is a difference between his on- and off-air personas, Dippold said that while being a radio personality he has never adopted an alter ego and found the audience responds best to him just being himself.
"I never thought of myself as a performer, or attempted to be someone I wasn't on any of my radio shows. However, after years of experience, I learned that I actually could be very funny, and had funny stories to tell, so I became a very good entertainer-- but always open and honest about myself and my life. I would often tell stories about my life, divorce, my child....My nickname is 'The Fish' - my son is very popularly known as 'The Guppy,'" Dippold said.
Dippold, who lives in Lake Stevens, Wash., just north of Seattle with his girlfriend Kim and son Shane, a 2011 graduate of Washington State University, said he has returned to St. Marys often over the years, with the trips becoming less frequent after the passing of his parents.
Dippold said he still keeps in touch with friends and always looks forward to a round of golf at the Bavarian Hills on his trips home.
"I really wish I was in better communication with my many relatives, so if you are reading this I often think of you and miss our family gatherings. I recently lost my godparents-- Jim and Snooky Auman-- they were great people and I have many fond memories," Dippold said.
Dippold said he looks back on his youth spent in St. Marys with a reverence and a reminiscence obviously fresh on his mind.
"I was a regular at the Memorial Park swimming pool and still afraid of the 'high dive' diving board. I played Little League Baseball in the Knothole League for many years. I spent most summer nights sleeping out in nearby woods with friends, building fires and eating s'mores -- once spent an entire summer sleeping out every single night," Dippold said.
Dippold said he tells stories from his childhood in St. Marys on his radio show "all the time and often tell tales of fun childhood adventures of hunting, fishing, camping, and playing sports."
Those outside the Seattle area can listen to Dippold on Game Time Northwest or www.gametimenorthwest.com, where he hosts a daily sports program at 3 p.m. The Game Time Northwest company, which Dippold started along with former NFL player Cam Cleeland, also features live broadcasts of top high school teams in the area.
Dippold, who is also the host of his own weekend show on KJR-AM/FM in Seattle, said he loves what he does and while grateful for his opportunities, he has just as importantly made the most of them and earned his successes.
"I often claim I have never really worked for a living as I love what I do...but I do work very, very hard," Dippold said.