Legendary Kansas broadcaster Bob Davis pens book of memoirs

By Todd Fertig
Special to The Capital-Journal
Bob Davis will be holding a book signing rom 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Johnny's Tavern.

Bob Davis describes himself as "the house on the side of the highway," a guy lucky enough to be in the right spot to watch the world pass by.  

For 48 years, Davis had a prime seat to see many great events unfold. The sportscaster recently published a book, "The Dream Is Real: My Life on the Airwaves,' which is chock full of memories of his days with the Kansas City Royals, University of Kansas, Fort Hays State University and various sporting events across the state.  

A graduate of Topeka West High School, Davis will be at Johnny’s Tavern, 2821 SW Fairlawn Rd., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to meet fellow Topekans and sign copies of his book. 

The book traces Davis’ journey from his childhood through nearly half a century of broadcasting, a career which began with rejection by more than 50 radio stations before he landed in Hays. In the days when radio was the medium for most sports broadcasts, Davis quickly developed into a prominent figure in western Kansas.

In the 1980s, Davis made the move to Lawrence, becoming the voice of the Jayhawks and a fixture on Royals broadcasts. 

“I’m not the story. The people that we covered, they were the story. I try to keep it that way,” Davis said of the book. “My personal story is pretty secondary to the events described in the book.” 

Whether they’re interested in the Royals, college or high school sports, the longtime broadcaster believes fans will enjoy reliving the moments recounted in the book. 

“People are passionate about sports. And if they were around for the things we wrote about, that adds to their enjoyment of seeing it rehashed,” Davis said. 

Technically, Davis doesn’t consider himself a Topekan, per se. His family moved frequently in his childhood. He attended junior high in Topeka and, after starting high school at Topeka High, was a member of the first graduating class of Topeka West in 1962.

He was sports editor of the school newspaper while in high school. He then attended Washburn University. But having spent the early years of his career in Hays, he admits he tends to call Hays his "hometown." 

Nonetheless, Davis hopes to reconnect with old friends at Johnny’s Tavern, as well as to meet anyone who wants to talk sports. 

“Topeka has a special place in my heart. I’ve been away from Topeka for a long time, but hopefully I’ll see some old friends. I have a lot of great memories from growing up there.” 

“Bob is so approachable. He wants to engage,” said Jeff Bollig, who co-wrote the book with Davis. “He loves to share the stories and hear people’s memories.  

“Bob made sure this is not an ego thing. It’s not about him. He wanted it to be about how much he likes people and wants to share their stories.” 

Bollig was familiar with the book’s subject. A native of Hays, Bollig listened to countless broadcasts featuring Davis growing up. 

“I’ve respected Bob all my life, and he’s been a part of my life for about as long as I can remember,” Bollig said. “I grew up loving sports, and Bob was the voice of so many of my memories. To be able to tell Bob’s story and share with people his humor and his insight was an honor.”  

Bollig, who served for several years as Assistant Sports Information Director for KU Athletics, has co-authored two other books, "Beware of the Phog: 50 Years of Allen Fieldhouse," and "What it Means to be a Jayhawk."

The two men met at Kansas University when Davis became the voice of the Jayhawks. 

“I never knew Bob in Hays. He was such a legend. I had a chance to meet him a few times, but I was just in awe,” Bollig said. “When I was working at the KU sports information department in the mid-80s at the time that Bob arrived, my boss – the sports information director – said ‘Hey Bob, there’s this guy here who knows everything about you.’” 

Among the many highlights of Davis’ broadcasting career are three basketball national championships, two at KU (1988, 2008) and the first at FHSU in 1984. It was from that game that the name of Davis’ book derives. 

“Toward the end of the game, I said ‘The dream is real,’ and that applied to the whole story,” Davis said. “I got to do what I wanted to do as a career and was around three national champions, just being in the right place at the right time. I’ve been associated with so many good people in Hays and Lawrence and across the state. It’s been sort of a dream.” 

At the close of each chapter of the book, a ‘Friends of Bob’ section include reflections from some famous, and some not-so-famous, people who were involved with the events covered. Among the KU and Royals personalities, Topekans Mark Turgeon and Don Free shared reflections. 

“It has something for everybody,” Bollig said. “It has sports history and Kansas history. It has some about how radio developed and the beauty of radio. And, of course, a lot about the Jayhawks and Royals.”  

The Dream is Real will be for sale Saturday at Johnny’s Tavern for $20. The book can also be ordered at bobdavisthedreamisreal.com.