Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

PHILADELPHIA

The four times the Yankees won the World Series from 1996 through 2000, Michael Kay worked beside John Sterling on the radio, at the heart of the drama surrounding those events.

>> See photos from World Series Game 5

Now that Kay is a TV announcer, he must toil on the periphery of the Series, hosting his 1050 ESPN radio show and appearing on YES before and after games.

That is the bargain play-by-play men make when they go from radio to TV, because Fox's Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the Series' sole television voices.

"It really affected me in 2003, because I was in the studio,'' Kay said before Game 5 last night. "That was tough. That was really, really tough. Since then, I'm fine with it. You'd like to be doing it, but it's not going to happen.''

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Tom McCarthy, the Phillies' TV play-by-play man, has done radio work during the Series, and SNY's Gary Cohen sat in for parts of WFAN's Mets playoff coverage in 2006. Kay, who joined the then-new YES Network in 2002, said he would feel "awkward'' doing that.

Anyway, he has been there and done that. As much as Kay appreciates the 2009 Yankees, he always will feel a particular bond with the earlier championship teams.

"John and I were talking about that the other day,'' he said. "None of this has the feel of the first couple of times. When Charlie Hayes caught the ball [to end the Series in 1996], that was probably the most fun.''

Kay also fondly recalled Game 5 of the 2001 Series, when Scott Brosius hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the Diamondbacks - one night after Tino Martinez did the same thing.

"If you listen to John's call, I'm punching him,'' Kay said. "I just couldn't believe it was happening. I'm just hitting him, and you hear his voice quaking.''

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Tim feels catcher's pains

Fifty years after making his major-league debut and 29 since his retirement, Tim McCarver walks more as if he used to play football than baseball.

Then again, he was a catcher, which explains the nagging (and worsening) pain in his right knee that has caused him to limp around Yankee Stadium and Citizens Bank Park during the World Series.

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"I'm dreading the trip back up there,'' the Fox analyst said as he descended the steps from the press box to Joe Girardi's office before Game 3.

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McCarver, 68, hopes knee-replacement surgery planned for December will help.

He got a reminder of just how hobbled he is when his 5-year-old granddaughter recently offered to show him her imitation of an old man walking. "She was walking just like me,'' he said. "I thought it was hilarious.''

 

Series ratings way up

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MLB and Fox are raving about the huge increase in Series ratings compared to 2008. But don't get overly excited: Last year's average of 8.4 percent of homes easily was the worst ever.

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Still, the 13.5 rating and 22.8 million viewers for Game 4 Sunday were the best such figures since the Red Sox clinched their first title since 1918 in Game 4 of the 2004 Series.

Sunday night's game enjoyed a lead-in from Fox's late-afternoon NFL window, featuring the Vikings-Packers game, which averaged a 17.4 rating and 29.8 million viewers, the highest-rated show on any network since the Academy Awards in February.

The most interesting tidbit to emerge from Game 4 was that the 31.2 percent of homes in the New York area that saw it were more than for any game in the '03 Series or for the first six games in '01.

Evidently, the Yankees' six-year Series drought whetted fans' appetites. And it hasn't hurt that they faced a nearby, established team such as the Phillies rather than the Diamondbacks or Marlins.

INTERACTIVEYankees vs. Phillies scouting report

 

>> COMPLETE COVERAGE: Yankees go for 27th World Series title

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