When I heard Turner Sports' Ernie Johnson say he grew up on 68th Street in Tosa, it caught my ear, because it's not too far from where I live. Turns out it's even closer than I thought.
This evening on a walk with my kid, we stumbled upon Johnson, along with his high-profile -- and high-altitude -- friends Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley -- enjoying a neighborhood barbecue in front of Johnson's childhood home in the City of Milwaukee's Enderis Park neighborhood.
Johnson and his friends are in town, of course, for the Bucks playoff series, which the team leads, 1-0, over the Toronto Raptors after a come from behind win last night.
A small crowd was gathered, eating free pizza and brats and enjoying free soda and beer (Bud Light?!) in front of the house. District Ald. Michael Murphy was on hand with a plaque for Johnson, who was wearing a Bucks hoodie he'd been gifted last night.
The homeowners, Kim and Patrick Nelson, were also on hand, as was a TV news crew, too, which must have gotten early word because I saw a cameraman from the station shooting some B-roll this afternoon in the neighborhood.
Ernie Johnson and Ald. Mike Murphy.
The celebs were posing for selfies (yes, yes, I did), signing autographs, eating heartily and chitchatting with all comers. It was a festive little affair and the stars seemed really down to earth and approachable.
That surely means Bucks in 5.
UPDATES: Former Milwaukee County Historical Society Director Bob Teske, who grew up down the street from Johnson, and his brother Paul both wrote to say that Johnson's dad, who had been a relief pitcher for the Braves (first in Boston and then from 1953 to '58 in Milwaukee; he also pitched for the minor league Milwaukee Brewers), was also their basketball coach at Mother of Good Counsel School, another block north, on 68th and Lisbon Avenue.
"I believe (they) moved into the house in the mid '50s," says Paul Teske. "Ernie, Sr. was around for the '57 and '58 World Series. It was big stuff in the neighborhood when Ernie and family moved in."
Ald. Murphy issued a statement Friday complimenting and thanking the celebs, but not only them.
"The Nelsons were so kind to open their home for Ernie and his guests, and it was especially fun watching a neighbor instruct Charles on the correct way to prepare and grill bratwurst," said Murphy.
"I have been lucky to represent Enderis Park and the 10th District for many years, and yesterday was a special moment for the neighborhood and the city that I’ll never forget."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.