Neighbor Spotlight: Larry “Spike Bandy”

Did you know that “Hey Fredrick,” a historical predecessor of Quarters Bar, at 900 E Center St., was the first bar to be named after a softball team, not the other way around?

Spike Bandy knows stuff about this neighborhood that not many people know.
When he arrived in Milwaukee in 1975, the Un-American League was well established. It was startedin the late 60s by “crazy hippies from UWM,” Spike explains. By 1975 the Bugle American (a localalternative newspaper) was sponsoring the leagues “World Serious,” with a prize measured in ounces inplace of a trophy. Spike has been a player on the famous “Hey Fredrick” team since 1981. “Our motto is ‘Drink and Talk Smart,’” Spike grins.
Why the history lesson on East Side softball lore?Because, as Spike explained it, this was background forthe “clean version” (as opposed to the “true version”) of how he came by his nickname.“I was catching,” Spike recalls. “Now, I live to hit. I justlike to get up to the plate and get my hacks in.” Spikehadn’t had a chance at bat, and was not too thrilled tobe catching, so he wasn’t counting too accurately as thepitcher struck out the batter he thought was the third– it was actually only the second out. Spike stood up,spiked the ball, the runner started moving…
“We held the lead,” Spike says sheepishly. “So we didn’tlose, despite my boneheaded action.”
It’s a complicated story, but it is clean. Are we going tohear the true story? “Nah, nah, nah….”
Okay then, how about some other stories?Larry Bandy grew up in Michigan. He was born inBenton Harbor, where his father had been transferredby the insurance company he worked for, to set up anew office. The family moved back to Detroit whenyoung Larry was 9 going on 10.
“I’m particularly proud of my dad,” Spike recalls. “Whilewe lived in Benton Harbor, my dad was active with thelocal NAACP,” helping get black professionals hired inthe town. His dad also served as the vice president ofthe state chapter of NAACP.
By the time he graduated from high school in Detroit,Spike was already involved in broadcasting and decidedto make it his career. He got married in 1969, and had“two lovely daughters.”
He worked in various Michigan cities: Saginaw, Flint,Detroit; then moved to Milwaukee in 1975. He workedfor several local radio stations, including WOKY andWMIL. He then worked as an independent broadcasterfor various radio networks until 1989.
He did a stint at Channel 10-36 from 1977 to 1991. “Idid a ‘talking heads’ show called Thinking Ebony, thensome magazine format shows. I did the first seven yearsof the Outdoor Wisconsin show.” Spike retired frombroadcasting in 2001.
Highlights? “I got to do some traveling, met and talkedto a lot of interesting people in news and the sportingworld.“I covered the Jeffrey Dahmer trial from arrest tosentencing,” Spike recalls. After starting the assignmentfor WOKY, he ended up covering the entire trial for APradio, and part of it for UPI. He also did some work forABC, NBC, and the Canadian press.
But that’s the past. “Now it’s the neighborhood where myfocus and energy is going,” Spike turns the conversationto his current passion. “My goal is to make Riverwesta safe place.”
Spike has been helping organize block clubs inRiverwest since 2006, when he and two others got themomentum going for the 2900 block of Fratney. “Wehad good success the first year, getting to know eachother and watch out for each other. We decided toreach out across the alleys to the 2900 blocks of Pierceand Bremen.”
Next they spread north to the 3000 blocks of all thestreets, then they were approached by people on the2800 blocks. “They heard about our famous 2900 blockparties,” Spike speculated.
Booth Street got involved on the western borders, thenWeil Street on the east.
“Right now we have the 2800, 2900, and 3000 blocksof Fratney, Pierce, and Booth,” Spike counts out theblocks. “We also have 2900 and 3000 blocks of Bremen;2900 block of Weil; 600, 700, 800, and 900 blocks ofBurleigh, Chambers, and Locust.
“For our next block club meeting, we’ll be flieringfrom Center to Burleigh and Weil to Booth.” CentralRiverwest Block Club Meetings are held the thirdTuesday of the month at Colonial Hall, 3063 N.Fratney. Pot luck starts at 6:30, meeting at 7. Agendausually includes introductions, announcements ofblock events and parties, and presentations by District5 Community Liaison Officers. Alderpersons and theirlegislative assistants are invited, and often come.
“Our goal is to get everybody united,” Spike says, “fromRiverwest Hills to Riverwest Heights to RiverwestGardens.
“I would urge everybody in Riverwest to get to knowyour neighbors and work with them. If you know wholives on your block, you know who doesn’t belong there.Start a block watch. District 5 will help. I’ll help. Safeand Sound will help. It’s something everyone can do.”“Part of my agenda is selfish,” he admits. “Riverwest isa great place to live, and I don’t want to live anywhereelse. But I want it to be safe.”
So Spike found a way to step up to the plate and helpmake that happen, one block at a time.