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RATINGS DOWN BUT NOT AMONG WORST

As expected, Fox's telecast of Game 1 topped all other shows Wednesday night. It drew14.6-million viewers nationwide, including nearly half of those watching TV in the bay area. What might not be expected: The ratings are on track to avoid historic lows for the World Series.

Nationally, the game scored a 9.2 rating and 15 share, according to Fox Sports. That means 9.2 percent of people who own TVs watched the game and15 percent of those watching TV did so. In the bay area, the game scored a 31.9 rating and 49 share to Philadelphia's 35.7 rating and 53 share.

The figures are a 12 percent decline from last year, when the popular Red Sox faced the Colorado Rockies. But they are a 15 percent improvement from the 2006 Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. That was the lowest-rated Series, averaging 11-million viewers over five games.

"We're off to a very solid start. This is a good number for a first night," said Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell, noting a six- or seven-game Series might boost viewership significantly. "No show gets the same ratings now that we saw in 1995. What advertisers pay for is a Series that dominates all other TV, and we're doing that."

Trop forces changes

Fox planned to place two ground-level, on-field cameras at the Trop but couldn't because of its artificial turf. The wires run underground from the production trucks to the field. But because there is only 4 inches between the turf and cement, it was a no-go, Fox technical operations director Mike Davies said.

"We were considering some wireless options," Davies said. "But in the end, we felt we better leave this one to the grass."

One camerawas supposed to be in front of home plate facing the batter and catcher, the other in foul territory looking toward first base.

Local Rays fever

Local media outlets have ramped up their Rays coverage to satisfy the appetite of bay area fans. A couple of things stood out from the first night's coverage:

- WTSP-Ch. 10 anchor Reginald Roundtree's Rayhawk haircut on live TV. The station was broadcasting a special that started at7 p.m., and he received a modified Mohawk that was more a close cut to the sides than a full-blown shaving. He did it to fulfill an on-air promise made earlier this year.

- Those in-game promos for cowbelltime.com. Turns out, it's Fox station WTVT-Ch. 13's new Web site housing its reports on the Rays.

'Sweet Music'

Frank Viola earned that nickname while with the Twins. During his stint, he won the 1988 Cy Young and 1987 World Series MVP for leading Minnesota to the title. And he is right at home under a dome having played in the Metrodome from 1982-89.

Today, the Orlando resident is part of Bright House Sports Network's pregame and postgame shows.

"I'm really enjoying this just like anybody else from the area; what a beautiful story," said Viola, who has worked for Bright House in Tampa and Orlando for the past few months.

Viola said he likes the Rays because of their starting pitching.

"In a seven-game series, I think they're a little stronger," he said. "And in the end, I think it could come down to the bullpen."

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