• John Bacchia

By Dave Popkin

Jesus Christ slides headfirst into home plate at Yankee Stadium, because if you’re going to make a big entrance, why not pick the center of the universe? The lone security guard shakes her head and shows JC to the Gate 8 exit to Rivera Avenue. No one’s around at Baseball’s Home Office on this 93-degree May day because baseball has reverted to the traveling road show that it was in the off-seasons of the 1920’s with Ruth and Gehrig. The best 50 players have been selected in a fan vote and they now travel around playing each other every night like the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals. No Houston Astros were elected. They play in civilized countries that know how to quarantine, they play in domes, they play occasionally in American cities with no hot spots. The four pandemics in the last two years have crippled America and the world. Unless there’s an overwhelmingly persuasive reason (the Beatles reunion in 2021 with Paul, Ringo, Julian, and Dhani, for example), people stay home. Some say baseball saved cable television. Teetering on the brink, the medium provided beleaguered citizens with some connection to their former reality. Ratings are at an all-time high. The commercials push Blue Apron meal delivery, Smith and Wesson, designer rubber gloves, and the new Chevy hybrid with a self-cleaning steering wheel and air purifier. As Jesus walks south through The Bronx he’s struck by the quiet apartment complexes, the clean streets, and the lack of people. Noticing a familiar cross on a building, he walks in undetected, as most people have beards now. The Christian Church finally got wise and combined into one entity. No more factions of Catholics and Methodists and Baptists and such. They couldn’t afford it. No one was showing up and the lawsuits became untenable. They used a good white-shoe mergers and acquisitions firm to sell all the real estate (the over-leveraged U.S. government uses the buildings for extra hospital beds). There’s no longer a shortage of clergy because with 26% unemployment, it’s a good job. Ministers can now marry and/or come out of the closet and a rainbow flag hangs outside. The only attendees are the true believers and the few remaining Republicans, everyone else follows the services on their Apple glasses for a 99-cents a month app with Jesus’s picture on it. Add in the Netflix streaming revenue and the Church hasn’t been this healthy since the 50’s. Jesus likes what he sees in the service –some original teachings and customs, some hard-won lessons and humility from recent tragedies, some actual kindness. The church is gorgeous and depicts his miraculous life. The parishioners leave the pews uplifted, but you can’t tell by their masked faces.The line for the food pantry in the back of the church stretches around the block. As he keeps walking south, he starts to sweat. Despite the dearth of cars on the road, it was too late to reverse catastrophic climate change. Manhattan is reduced to four blocks down the middle, everything else is underwater. Miami, Charleston, Norfolk, Boston, Atlantic City, and many others the same. The Dow Jones might be at 8,200, but stock in the Old Town canoe company is up 6,000%. The economy is starting to bounce back a bit. Amazon drivers are making $30 an hour after a bloody union strike. Teachers earned a 40% raise and continue to innovate. Wind turbines, liquor stores, Kindle, hand sanitizer and soap companies, and hospital and bunker construction jobs are booming. There’s no need for dance clubs anymore, so Cardi B joins Kamala Harris’ administration as Youth Czar. The rest of the musicians live in their mothers’ basements and perform for donations online. Jesus’s walk through Central Park is lovely, still an oasis in this concrete jungle. People wave, but keep their distance. He sees two people argue over a parking spot on 56thStreet. The Naked Cowboy is doing “Achy Breaky Heart”. New York is still New York after all. Somewhat dispirited and ready to go home, Jesus can’t help but grab an ugly Christmas sweater from a Times Square gift shop with his likeness on it. He says to the clerk, “The boys in Galilee won’t believe this one, I guess we were onto something.” And in a flash, he’s gone, like Doc Brown and Marty McFly, to another time and dimension.

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  • John Bacchia

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

This blog post is NOT about this date, but a conversation with my old radio colleague Bob Smiley. We recounted a phone interview we conducted with an old-time major league pitcher, Smokey Joe Wood. Smokey told a tale about a big game in which he had struck out the legendary Babe Ruth. There's a good chance you never heard of Wood. He's not in the Hall of Fame despite once compiling a single season record of 34 and 5. As legend goes, the right handed pitcher got his start in baseball posing as a female on a women's barnstorming team. The Bloomer Girls competed against men's teams. Wood was a good looking youngster with youthful features that allowed him to play in disguise. The Red Sox were so smitten by his talents that they signed him to a contract. The rest is baseball history. During our conversation with the baseball legend years ago, Wood brought up the fact that he was sidelined in 1918 due to a pandemic that struck the globe. It was a respiratory ailment that became known as the Spanish Flu that killed upwards of 50 million. That was 101 years ago and for some strange reason I was comforted by the fact that Smoky Joe survived the pandemic and lived to the ripe-old age of 97. By the way, when I asked Joe about striking out Babe Ruth, he didn't seem to think it was such a big deal. For Joe, surviving the pandemic of 1918 was the Ruthian accomplishment.

Red Sox pitcher Smokey Joe Wood

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  • John Bacchia

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

As play-by-play legend Jack Buck once said, "I can't believe what I just saw!" That phrase rings true today for me as I write this blog post. It's hard to get a handle on what we are witnessing every single time we flip on the TV or look out the window or try to live our lives. The global pandemic has frozen the planet! Heck, it even stopped the college basketball season in its tracks. Who in their right mind might have imagined that scenario. Can't believe what I just saw! Can't believe. Period. I have to remind myself in the morning that we're not caught in some horrible nightmare. There are many more important things than basketball, but we sure need our diversions now more than ever. So here are some exciting play-by-play radio highlights presented in an SHU produced web series entitled "The Voyage". According to Hilltop's Dave Popkin, "it was one of the more exciting play-by-play assignments I've had for Seton Hall given the dunks, 13 three-pointers, sellout crowd and the importance of the win." That's saying a lot, because Dave has teamed with Gary Cohen for more than 500 Seton Hall radio broadcasts. The Mets play-by-play legend was on assignment for this one and Dave donned his play-by-play hat, with John Fanta providing the color. It was a great win, and a big-time milestone game for 6'11" Sandro Mamukelashvili. He scored 26 points and had his best game as a Pirate. To me, Sandro showcased his full potential, as he displayed every aspects of his game. Check the video out. It was a landmark Seton Hall win of 2020. The year March Madness never arrived or concluded. I still can't believe it.

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