When the Texas A&M baseball team opens the 2020 season against the Miami RedHawks on Feb. 14 at Olsen Field, the “Voice of Aggie Athletics” will call the action for fans listening on the radio.
Outside the booth, Dave South has capped a 50-year broadcast career by dedicating sales royalties from his new book to the Wounded Warrior Foundation, which supports those injured in the line of duty.
On Jan. 30, South gave a play-by-play of how his book “You Saw Me On the Radio” came to be published by Texas A&M University Press and about the man who inspired South to donate the proceeds — retired Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford, who lost his sight, legs and an arm while deployed in Iraq. The book signing was part of the continuing exhibit “A Spirit Can Ne’er Be Told: Traditions of Aggieland,” hosted by Cushing Library and on display until Feb. 28.
In a 20-minute talk to new and old fans, South wove together stories about his faith, family and Aggie athletics, including the origins of his love affair with radio.
South said while he has worked every job in a radio station, his hobby has always been sports play-by-play.
“I knew that sports play-by-play would not provide enough money to support a family,” said South. “In 1980, I moved to sales and loved it.”
Texas A&M recruited South to sell corporate sponsorships, and he became the radio voice for Aggie athletics in 1985, calling football play-by-play until 2017 and basketball until 2018. South said his spot calling the action in the Olsen radio booth is on a year-by-year basis.
A man who has described his career by saying “I talk for a living,” South said his interest in broadcasting came at a young age when his parents would drag him to downtown Wichita Falls to do Thursday-night shopping when shops stayed open late.
“One of those early visits down there I came across a radio station that was on the street,” South said. “You could stand and watch the DJ work on the inside of the studio. I guess I looked like some kind of urchin; I’d just stand there watching him work.”
Eventually, the DJ invited South inside where he would spend every Thursday night soaking up the sights and skills of a future lifelong career. At the studio, South said he was given old news copy and commercials while broadcasters explained how the control board worked.
“I had a paper route at that time, and I started saving my money,” South said. “I bought two tape recorders, an amplifier, two turntables, and friends of mine helped me wire all that together. I would go in, and I would turn the tape recorder on and record myself. I had cleaned out half my closet and turned it into a radio station.”
KDAV eventually went live on the air from his closet, and South said his mother would listen and occasionally correct his grammar or suggest phrases.
As South’s 16th birthday approached, his mother surprised him by taking him to the new location of the radio station where he once peered in the window. He said she told him to walk in and apply for a job.
“We sat out there for a long time and then finally I got up my nerve,” South said. “There wasn’t anybody in the building except one guy at the front desk, and I said I want to apply for a job.
“He took me back to one of the recording studios, set me up and handed me some copy. I went over the copies and started the recorder.”
Afterward, the broadcaster listened to South’s tape for a couple of minutes, then stopped.
“He looked at me, and he said, ‘Where have you worked before?’ And I wasn’t going to tell him my closet,” said South. He was then hired as the station’s weekend DJ.
South spent 50 years in collegiate sports broadcasting gathering stories along the way, and he said he also was able to earn the trust of coaches and players. Often, people told South he should write a book.
“There was a chance meeting in the radio booth at Blue Bell Park between me and the Texas A&M Press, and my wife [Leanne] took it upon herself to go back and talk to the people from the press,” South said. “We wrote a few of the stories that we wanted to do and sure enough they took it.
“They gave us six weeks to get it done.”
Now on the other side of the publishing deadline, South, his book and his memories are now part of the rich traditions at A&M. As those traditions continue to grow, they become an important part of A&M that the Cushing Library honors, said Deanna Fischer, past president of Friends of the Texas A&M University Libraries.
“When our curators of all of our wonderful collections brought together all the different things that make up the history of A&M, South is a part of that, and this book as well,” Fischer said. “He’s kind of an icon, so it’s a great way for us to promote what we do here at the library.”
Bob Segner, professor emeritus of construction science and A&M alumni, said he is looking forward to reading South’s book.
“I’m delighted to see the sections in which he divided it and seeing what he has to say,” Segner said, noting he came to the event to show his support for South.
“I want to see if he can write as well as he can talk,” Segner added — with a chuckle.