WatchDog: The best of Neil Best

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

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

Howe did not blame Hoffman for 'Moneyball'

Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died on Super Bowl Sunday, left behind an impressive body of acting work, but his foray into sports flicks was tinged by controversy.

His portrayal of former Athletics (and Mets) manager Art Howe in "Moneyball" -- the third-highest-grossing baseball movie in history -- came as a surprise to many who have known and worked with him.

But as unhappy as Howe was to be characterized as the heavy -- and a baseball Neanderthal -- he never blamed Hoffman.

"I remember reading an article where he said he wanted to meet me and apologize for how he portrayed me," Howe told TMZ.com. "Now we're never going to have that chance."

Added Howe: "Even though I didn't agree with the way I was portrayed, I didn't blame him. He was just playing the part he was given. He was an outstanding actor. It's a big loss to the acting world. He's going to be missed."

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Kay fires back at Francesa

Fox Sports 1 has emerged as a strong contender to simulcast Mike Francesa's WFAN radio show, which if it occurs could make for some interesting company picnics.

With Fox set to increase its stake in the YES Network to 80 percent, the simulcasts of both Francesa's show and Michael Kay's ESPN New York show could both be on Fox-owned channels.

Did I mention Francesa and Kay are not currently on the best of terms?

After Kay opened his first simulcast Monday by dropping a plastic bottle of Diet Coke -- Francesa's favorite drink in his YES years -- into a garbage can held by partner Don LaGreca, Francesa told Newsday it was a "classless, loser move from two guys I have been burying in the ratings for over a decade."

YES deleted the scene from a rerun, a hint that executives there were not amused. But Kay was unapologetic in an interview in the New York Post, saying he meant no disrespect.

"A lot of people have asked, would I do it again? I'd absolutely do it a hundred times again," he said. "I thought it was hilarious and anybody who took it seriously, that's their issue, not mine."

Kay insisted be has been respectful of Francesa, whom he accused of making comments about his show that have displayed "a lack of grace and class."

Said Kay: "It wasn't as if I took a shot at a guy that hasn't taken a hundred shots at us for every one that we have taken at him."

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Ed Sullivan was a sports fan -- and writer!

Ed Sullivan is back in the spotlight in a new millennium, what with Sunday being the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first appearances on his influential variety show.

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So let's take this opportunity to pay tribute to the man's love of sports -- including a decade as a sportswriter and editor in the 1920s -- that extended even to his romantic life.

Sullivan once was engaged to Sybil Bauer, a 1924 Olympic gold medal swimmer, and was by her side when she died of cancer at age 23 in 1927.

During his TV show's run from 1948-71, he had on scores of sports figures -- including Herb Score -- with an emphasis on boxers and New York baseball players. There were eight visits apiece for Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mickey Mantle and Byron Nelson (according to IMDB.com).

He had Eleanor Gehrig and Teresa Wright, who played her in the movies. He had Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Dempsey? He had Gene Tunney, too. He had Bronko Nagurski and O.J. Simpson, Red Barber and Vin Scully, Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson, Jackie Robinson and Yogi Berra, Joe Namath and Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio.

My favorite: The 1969 Mets, three days after winning the World Series -- with their formal names as captions, i.e. Don Dyer, Frank McGraw and Darrell (sic) Harrelson -- on stage en masse and singing, "Heart."

From the play "Damn Yankees."

(Very) young baseball stars headed to Yaphank

ESPN long has ruled the kids-playing-baseball-on-cable-TV universe, what with its blanket, hours-eating coverage each August of the Little League World Series.

But there are more 12-and-under players where those came from and the best will appear Aug. 1-11 on CBS Sports Network -- and in the flesh in Yaphank.

The seventh National Youth Baseball Championships, featuring top travel teams from around the country, announced a move from Memphis to Baseball Heaven in Yaphank, from which 12 games will be telecast on CBSSN and streamed on MLB.com this summer.

Why the national exposure? For one thing, the quality of play is elite level -- for its age. For another, it has friends in high places, notably White Sox vice chairman (and TV sports pioneer) Eddie Einhorn, who created the event.

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