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The Best of Neil's Watchdog

Nantz is on call

I got a lot of mileage the other day out of a chat with Jim Nantz in which he got a tad defensive when I asked him about his famously reverential tone when calling the Masters.

Late in that interview, Nantz veered off in a different direction, addressing another common critique of his work: That he preplans what he will say after big events.

I mostly think that is a bad rap, and told him so, but that didn't stop him from venting:

"The other criticism, which I think is really amusing and really unoriginal: Did you script that line, 'A win for the ages?'

"No, you know what I did? I went out and drank all Saturday night with Tiger nine shots in front going into Sunday's round [in 1997].'' (Nantz was being sarcastic, just to be clear.)

"If you're there to write it, wouldn't you be thinking about your lead on Saturday night? If not, then you should have your credential taken away.

"What would you think, at a moment that big I'm not going to figure out in advance some options of what I'm going to say at the end of that broadcast?

"People are like, 'Oh, he scripted that.' No kidding!''

Isn't it Grand?

By the time Curtis Granderson hit his first two home runs as a Yankee, John Sterling had worked into his calls "Something Sort of Grandish'' from "Finian's Rainbow'' and "The Candy Man'' from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

E-mail your suggestions for other song-based Granderson-isms for Sterling to deploy and I will see that he gets the best of them.

Is it A-Rod's hot corner?

Episode 3 of MSG's "The Lineup: New York's All-Time Best Baseball Players'' Tuesday yielded no surprise, with Jackie Robinson taking his place at second base along with the previously named Yogi Berra at catcher and Lou Gehrig at first.

Next up, at 10:30 p.m. Monday, is a trickier position: third base.

There is no iconic New York figure there, but there is one in the making. The choice has to be A-Rod, right?

Listeners line up for Cards

An impressive 20 percent of men ages 25-54 who were listening to the radio last year while a Cardinals game was in progress were tuned in. (Arbitron via Sports Business Daily.)

That was the best average rating in MLB, followed by the Tigers, Phillies, Red Sox and Twins.

The Yankees ranked seventh among 25 teams in markets where people meters are in use with 10.2 percent of men ages 25-54 and the Mets were 12th at 8.2.

In terms of total average audience, the Yankees easily were No. 1 at 412,500. The Mets' 277,000 ranked third, slightly behind the Cubs.

Bosox, Cubs, Yanks top tix li$t

Team Marketing Report's annual studies on the price of attending a baseball game are complex and inexact. But people like me can't resist using their figures.

They show the average cost of a non-premium MLB ticket is up slightly from 2009 to $26.74, and the average Fan Cost Index is down slightly, to $195.08.

(FCI counts four tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, two programs, two caps and one parked car.)

The Red Sox and Cubs top the FCI and ticket rankings, with the Yankees third in both at $316.32 and $51.83. The Mets are sixth at $226.88 and $32.22.

The fact that only non-premium seats are included is a key X-factor here. The Mets have an MLB-high 37 percent of their seats considered premium, and those average $133.98.

The Yanks' premiums average $312.11, highest in baseball.

'30 for 30' eyes AI

Next up in ESPN's "30 for 30'' documentary series is one of the most compelling to date: "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson,'' at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Steve "Hoop Dreams'' James returns to his hometown of Hampton, Va., to revisit a time that divided the city - the bowling alley fight on Valentine's Day, 1993, and subsequent trial that landed Iverson in prison.

Iverson (and other key figures) declined to speak to James or did so only with reluctance for fear of reopening old wounds, many racially tinged.

But James plugs along with his personalized take, which includes an interview with his mother.

"If I hadn't been from there I think would have said, 'That's a nice story, but no thank you,' '' James said. "I think the personal vision part of it is crucial to them. You see it reflected in the films.''

YES keeps count

On one hand, there is no denying YES' new graphic that keeps a running total of pitch counts is a helpful service to viewers.

On the other, there is no denying it is disturbing that the 21st century obsession with pitch counts has evolved to the point where the statistic warrants its own on-screen element.

New York Sports