The first time I met Bob Davis, I was in awe of the man. A voice forged into the minds of thousands of Jayhawks fans with his unforgettable cadence. The voice that had seen some of the greatest moments in Kansas sports history. And yet, here he was, talking to a seventh-grader who knew little about KU previous of 2011, and nothing before 2008.
Bob Davis, the former play-by-play announcer for Kansas Athletics, recounts his time with the University and what it was like calling the 2008 Orange Bowl game.
Recently, with the help of KU alumni Jeff Bollig, Davis was able to share his memories, stories, and passions with everyone thanks to the release of his new book, “The Dream is Real, My Life on the Airwaves.”
Davis didn’t want the book to be about him, but his stories throughout his time on the mic.
“Just fun, have some fun,” Davis said. “Highlights and people that I knew in Hays and in Lawrence and in Kansas City. People that I knew and liked, and, you know, give them a little spotlight because they were all part of the story.”
Bollig grew up in Hays while Davis was working at KAYS radio. Bollig graduated from Kansas in the late 1980s and has worked a variety of business communication jobs, while also publishing two other books called Beware of the Phog: 50 Years of Allen Fieldhouseand What It Means to Be a Jayhawk: Bill Self and Kansas's Greatest Players.
Bollig met Bob while at KU and the two eventually became good friends later in life.
“Bob fueled my love for sports,” Bollig said. “Bob is a very humble, easily approachable person, but I just didn't meet him because I was so in awe of him.”
Bollig eventually approached Davis about writing a book of his own.
“After I did my first two books. I said, Bob, you should do a book sometime. I think you'd be really good, you have some really great stories, and I think people would be interested in hearing those.”
A little over a year ago, Davis finally agreed to release a book of his first-hand stories.
“It was go big or go home. So we decided to go big," Bollig said.
The book was released earlier this year and not only details the experiences of Davis from his time in Hays and being the Voice of the Jayhawks, but it’s also littered with sidebars and stories from the people who respected and worked alongside Bob from every era of his career.
The amount of respect Davis receives from the likes of legendary sports figures is evident from the minutes you open the book, as you’re greeted by a beautifully written forward from CBS broadcaster and KU alumni Kevin Harlan. Throughout the book, you’ll start to gain a sense of the respect given to Davis, seen through the eyes of legendary figures of KU like coaches Larry Brown, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Danny Manning, Mark Mangino and Max Falkenstein.
Respect from other well-known sports media figures such as Dick Vitale, Jim Nance, Kevin Harlan, Holly Rowe, Denny Mathews, Ryan Lefebvre and Mitch Holthus are also included.
“It's humbling,” Davis said. “Just to know those guys and be friends with them. It’s my pleasure.”
The current Voice of the Jayhawks and Davis’ successor after his 2016 retirement, Brian Hanni, knew how great Davis was at their craft.
“I try not to compare myself to him ever,” Hanni said. “Because you're just setting yourself up for disappointment if you do that with a legend.”
Hanni believes that Davis should be remembered as one of the greatest storytellers to broadcast.
“Not just at our program, but across the state and across the country,” Hanni said. “He had a chance to tell the stories of Kansas greats and so he did a masterful job in a very key window of Kansas success, and we couldn't have a better guy on the call to capture all of that.”
The book opens with the stories of Bob’s childhood and how his love for sports was created. Traveling to watch baseball games across Kansas, Oklahoma, and even Arkansas, including seeing a young Mickey Mantle, before his Yankee days.
As the book progresses into Bob’s arrival in the radio industry at KAYS in Hays, Kansas, we see how important Davis was to the community. His work ethic of doing high school basketball games, baseball, Fort Hays State athletics, showed his dedication to the craft.
We eventually find Bob’s time in Hays comes to an end as he embarks on the journey of becoming the Voice of the Jayhawks. There are too many stories to highlight the best of the best, but reading about his time as the Voice of the Jayhawks, reading the stories of great athletes, teams, and years of KU athletics through his eyes is truly an incredible experience.
After reading about the many years at Kansas, hearing about his time as the Royals radio broadcaster is yet another reading experience that will entice anybody who opens the book.
Davis ended with how lucky and grateful he was to embark on the ride of a lifetime.
“I had a lot of fun doing it,” Davis said. “I was really lucky to fall into some of these things. And I have appreciated it my whole life. So to be along the side of the road while all this was happening. That was my good fortune.”