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'The Dream Is Real': Bob Davis, former voice of Jayhawks (and Royals), has a new book

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 12/25/2020 Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star

Dec. 25—LAWRENCE — As radio "Voice of the Jayhawks" for 32 years, Bob Davis broadcast KU's 1988 basketball championship victory over Oklahoma and 2008 title win over Memphis.

He's served as play-by-play announcer for eight of the Jayhawks' 15 NCAA Final Four appearances and half of KU's 12 football bowl games, including KU's victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

In other words, the graduate of Topeka West High School and Washburn University has chronicled some of the biggest games in KU football and hoops history and covered many of the most important players and coaches in KU annals in his book, "The Dream is Real," available for purchase online at and It will also be sold at select Dillons food stores throughout Kansas (Lawrence, Wichita, Derby, Topeka, Hays, Salina, Hutchinson, Andover) starting Monday.

Current KU basketball coach Bill Self, who is included in the book along with former KU hoops coaches Roy Williams and Larry Brown, said recently he's planning on reading "The Dream is Real" in the near future, perhaps over the team's Christmas break.

"People that have followed us or followed KU for any period of time In basketball or football all know Bob and love Bob," Self said of Davis. "I don't think people even appreciate the number of things that he's been able to witness or has seen in his time because you've got all the KU stuff but we don't even talk about all the Royals stuff and he's been right in the middle of all of it. He is an amazing guy and great storyteller."

Included in the book — which was co-authored by former KU associate sports information director Jeff Bollig — are Davis' memories of working 16 years on the Royals' baseball broadcast team and 16 years broadcasting college and high school sports in Hays, Kansas.

Davis retired after the 2015-16 KU basketball season, the Jayhawks reaching the Elite Eight in hoops that year. His replacement entering his fifth year as current "Voice of the Jayhawks" is Brian Hanni.

"I figured after 50 years people had heard enough of me. But my friends said I needed to put the stories down on paper so the listeners could relive the experiences they enjoyed over time. Plus, it was fun to reconnect with so many people who were special in my life," Davis said in giving reasons for writing a book.

The book also includes comments from and/or stories about former Jayhawk football coaches Glen Mason, Mike Gottfried and Mark Mangino as well as former Kansas City Royals manager Tony Muser and player Mike Sweeney plus Royals broadcasters Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre and Chiefs play-by-play announcer Mitch Holthus, the former KSU voice of the Wildcats.

Davis also has recollections of his years working in Hays in the book.

"I think fans will enjoy the book because they will learn a little bit about the evolution of broadcasting, take a peek behind the scenes stories, and hopefully get a chuckle from our hijinks on the road," said Davis, whose broadcast career spanned 48 years.

The book cover was designed by John Martin, the Kansas City portrait artist who has created many of the portraits of athletes and coaches in KU's athletics Hall of Fame. The foreward is written by CBS, TNT and Westwood One broadcaster Kevin Harlan and afterword by Wyatt Thompson, radio voice of the Kansas State Wildcats.

"The finished product is even better than we thought it'd be. I owe Jeff a lot for putting in so much work and getting after me to do it," Davis said of co-author Bollig.

The book's title comes from Davis' famous call in the final moment of the 1988 NCAA title game: "The dream is real! The dream is real! Kansas has won the NCAA title!" That clip is played in a video shown before introductions at KU basketball games.

Memories of the star player on that 1988 team, Danny Manning, are included in the book.

"I remember as a player going to our basketball banquets and being amazed at how good Bob was as the emcee," Manning said in the book. "He did it so smoothly, with great humor and personality. And then, when they played the highlight film, they used clips of his broadcasts over the footage. I was thinking, 'How does he know to say the right thing at the right time all the time?' I can see why fans enjoyed listening to him."

An example of what's in the book is some inside information involving the hiring of well-traveled hoops coach Brown.

"To show you how much times have changed," Davis wrote, "Brown earned annually $55,000 plus another $14,000 for marketing and media appearances. Monte Johnson (KU AD) promised Brown he would be in the top five among NCAA coaches in terms of annual compensation if he stayed at least five years."

On the football side, Mason related a story or two about his tenure as coach at KU (1988 to '96).

"We went from a program that was a joke to a Top 10 team. Bob was there through the bad times as well as the good," Mason said. "The one constant was Bob Davis, totally supportive and always professional."

Mason related a story about a bird landing on his own head during an interview before the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii.

"Bob did not miss a beat and continued on. I was startled, but reacted to Bob and just kept going as Mr. Parrot was perched on top of my head," Mason said in the book.

Davis shared memories of working with the late Paul Splittorff on the Royals' broadcasts.

"The broadcasts allowed us to bring the legends of the game to the fans," Davis wrote. "I remember on one television pregame show for the Royals-Cardinals series we had both George Brett and Stan Musial on, arguably the two biggest names in the history of both franchises. The way they dissected hitting was amazing. And to top it off, Musial played the harmonica on air for us," Davis added.

Davis recalls former Royals first baseman Sweeney as, "one of the best people in sports, amateur or pro. One of the best things about my job over the years is my association with Mike. He's the real deal, as nice as they come. And Tony Muser ... one of the funniest people I've ever been around, a good ol' 100 percent baseball lifer," Davis added.

Davis lives in Lawrence during his retirement with wife Linda. He's a proud grandfather of four.

"I call 'em the Fab Four," Davis said lovingly of his grandkids.


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