Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

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

It's the kind of milestone that seems almost quaint to be noting in 2009, especially on a night on which the first African-American First Lady was in the house.

But there it was: When she took the mike last night for Game 1, Suzyn Waldman became the first woman to work a World Series game in a broadcast booth, alongside John Sterling on WCBS-AM.

In a career full of female sportscasting firsts, none meant more to her.

"Yeah, I'm very proud of this; I'm extremely proud of this,'' she said outside the Yankees clubhouse as she waited to interview Derek Jeter.

"This is very important to me. This is the World Series - it's the World Series. It doesn't get any more important, to me anyway, than this. So this is mine. This is something no one can ever take away.''


Waldman covered the Yankees for nearly two decades for WFAN and YES before joining Sterling in 2005, a partnership that at times has inspired intense criticism (some of it deserved) and derision.

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In '07 alone, she infamously gushed over Roger Clemens' return to Yankee Stadium in May and cried on the air after what turned out to be Joe Torre's final game in October.

The fallout from the latter incident infuriated her; she said at the time it was "as sexist as it gets'' and "absolutely ludicrous.''

Interestingly, though, Waldman's critics have been relatively quiet during the past two years. Have they given up, or just gotten used to her?

"When I started in this business 23 years ago, someone told me about changing a paradigm,'' she said. "First people ignore you, then they make fun of you, then they get really angry, then all of a sudden somewhere down the line it's, 'Oh, she's been there forever.'

"Maybe that's how you change things in this world. I don't know.''


Sterling handles all the play-by-play, but Waldman gets her words in, and enjoys the "personal'' nature of the medium. That is most important in the playoffs, when the only local voices are on the radio.

"What I like about it is when I see fans it's always Suzyn, never Ms. Waldman,'' she said.

"It's very personal, and that to me is terrific. I still get people saying, 'You know, you're really dumb.' That's OK. That's baseball. Everyone gets that.''

Perhaps so, but often there is an added edge to such comments when they are directed at a woman. That all seemed worth it last night.

Waldman listened Wednesday as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel recalled the first game of last year's World Series, and how he got "sentimental'' during introductions as he thought about his many years in baseball.

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"I think about that, too,'' she said. "It's the one time you allow yourself to think about where you've been and what you've done and think about my grandfather and think about Mr. Steinbrenner and all the things that have happened all these years.

"It really is the first time I've ever thought, 'Boy, I wish my grandfather was here to see this.' ''

McCarthy gets call

Like most local TV announcers, YES' Michael Kay has been limited during the playoffs to pregame and postgame work, because network announcers from TBS and Fox have contractual dibs.

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It is a common frustration for announcers and listeners alike.

But in Philadelphia this postseason, Tom McCarthy, the Phillies' TV play-by-play man since Harry Kalas died in April, has been calling the middle three innings on radio.

"I know how it is around baseball, that TV guys are usually isolated to the Land of Misfit Toys when the postseason comes,'' said McCarthy, who as a Mets announcer in 2006 did not complain when SNY's Gary Cohen called one inning per postseason game on WFAN.

"You understand that when you take the position. So I'm very appreciative of the Phillies allowing me to do it.''