When Willie Mays stumbled through his final seasons with the Mets, I cringed at my boyhood hero’s public decline. Brett Favre’s multiple attempts to unretired and regain his past glory have turned his Hall-of-Fame career into an immediate punch line. When our favorite sports broadcasters milk an extra few years from their once stellar career the results can be just as ugly.
Bob Davis, the immediately recognizable radio voice of the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas City Royals, is now stumbling through the final years of his once sterling play-by-play career. Your best friends will tell you when you’ve lost it. Davis apparently doesn’t
have any friends quite that close. So it’s left to the unfriendly critics to
deliver the message. Bob, it is time to unplug the mic.
Davis was once my favorite local sports broadcaster. When my wife and I moved to Kansas City in 1988, he was the voice who told us KU’s Danny and The Miracles had pulled off one of the greatest upset runs in the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Davis was network excellent right here in our backyard. I was thrilled that we had a talent like his to enjoy. I promoted him in my KC Star column to get the Royals gig when it opened. Davis won a number of my SOFA Awards as my pick for the best play-by-play voice in a talented market. But Father Time strikes midnight for us all. It is time for Bob to board that pumpkin and head home.
Max Falkenstien milked a 60-year broadcasting career out of his ties to Kansas University. Max didn’t really fall off in his late years because he was never very good – at least not his last 30 years. John Kadlec somehow lasted more than a decade in Mizzou’s football booth without ever displaying any evidence of talent or wit. Davis’ talent is far superior to both Max and Mr. Mizzou – but he is in danger of being remembered with similar pity as a guy who just hung on in the radio booth too long.
Davis has always been an emotional play-by-play guy and this is one of the reasons he is so loved by his fans. He first reminded me of my all-time favorite play-by-play voice, the Cornhuskers’ late Lyell Bremser, whose calls of Nebraska football were as legendary in the state as any of the gridiron greats. Bremser stayed in the booth beyong his years as well.
Davis’ decline began for me a few years ago with his Kansas basketball calls. His game-day emotion was giving way more and more to game-day screaming, whining, and seeing things that weren’t there or missing other things that were apparent to others.
Davis is passionate about wanting his teams to win. I enjoy that part of his work. But he now is apparently unable to see what is happening on the field or court. If it is not his eyes,
then he is simply having trouble processing the speed of what is occurring in front of him from his eyes to his vocal chords into an understandable and accurate play-by-play broadcast.
Last week Davis’ call of a home run by Boston’s Dustin Pedroia began as “A pop up.” It landed on the other side of Fenway’s Green Monster in left. It was a day game with plenty of sunshine. When I saw the video highlight later that evening, the blast looked like a moon shot off Pedroia’s bat rather than a pop up. Monday night he had the Orioles’ centerfielder racing and sliding to catch a fly ball that was caught by the O’s shortstop. These are just a few examples of many.
I like Bob. Always have. But if his friends won’t tell him what he needs to hear, I will…as will his listeners.
After Davis’ call Monday night, Twitter exploded with a little game that quickly became known as @BobDavisRecitesHistory. Ross Martin, the sports editor for the St. Joseph News-Press whose Twitter handle is @pcbearcat, tweeted this hash tag with this salvo; “Ronald Reagan is shot … And he’s gone! Wait, no, it’s only a superficial wound. I thought FOR SURE he was gone.” What followed was a flood of funny, cruel and entertaining
made-up quotes from Royals fans, Mizzou fans, Kansas fans and the like on Davis’
skewed take on some of history’s more famous events. Below is a sampling. You can
read them all by searching Twitter’s @BobDavisRecitesHistory.
“Here’s Hitler with a chance to invade England. HE BLASTS IT TOWARDS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL…caught by America.”
“This contraption the Wright Brothers are building will never get off the ground. And there she goooooes!!”
“Boy, that Benedict Arnold’s a nice guy,if I had to trust 1 guy, it’d be him.Now they’re gonna call him for treason?”
“Quantrill looks like he’ll ride past Lawrence…And the Eldridge is on fire.”
“White smoke coming from the Vatican. When is foul fair? When it’s spelled F O W L.”
“Heading into the top of the 1st in Vietnam, and this looks like it’ll be an easy win for the Americans.”
“General Custard rounds into the back for an easy win, wait, what happened there? Now he’s gonna be called out? Oh my!”
“That Nero, he’s quite a fiddle player. Denny, do you smell smoke?”
“The British are not coming.”
“Bin laden escapes, jumps in the ocean to swim away!! And now he’s sinking, and I guess he’s dead?”
“The Eagle is on the lunar surface and here comes John Glenn down the ladder to take the first steps on Jupiter.”
“Reagan’s just been shot! He’ll have 2 shots at the foul line if he can shake this off.”
“Davey Crockett charges in there and reclaims the Alamo!”
“It’s a beautiful morning in Honolulu today and, oh look a Japanese air show!”
“That is a fine looking horse!!! What a show of sportsmanship from the Trojans!”
“Hitler looks to sign a peace treaty… No wait, he is in Warsaw with the German Army. We go to the bottom of the 1st.”
“Oh, and the South has won – no! OH! They surrendered at Appomattox!”
GregHall24@yahoo.com and Twitter / greghall24