NEW YORK - Of the myriad ways to measure a sports team's popularity, be it ticket sales or gross revenues from merchandising or whatnot, television ratings remain the best and most immediate gauge. By that standard, the Phillies are building toward a crescendo they have not reached in years.

This is bigger than last year's World Series, much bigger. The ratings for Wednesday night's Game 1 against the Yankees were 25 percent higher than the Game 1 ratings last year against the Tampa Bay Rays.

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For the record, the Game 1 rating in Philadelphia was a 44.5, with a 59 percent share of the audience watching television. In 2008, the Game 1 rating in Philadelphia was a 35.7, with a 53 percent share of the audience watching television.

Given that television ratings for the World Series tend to build as the drama of the series plays out, this Phillies team has a chance to beat the television numbers put up by the 1993 Phillies. That series averaged a 45.3 in Philadelphia.

Nationally, this was the most-watched Game 1 in 5 years. It continues a trend of ratings growth lately in all sports. But in the case of the Phillies, it serves to highlight a building momentum of franchise popularity that has resulted in 3.6 million attendance this season at Citizens Bank Park and year after year of explosive growth in their regular-season television ratings.

Just to complete the picture, a couple of comparisons can be made with the Eagles, who have dominated the television numbers in Philadelphia for decades, just as the NFL has dominated the numbers nationwide.

One comparison would be with the NFC Championship Game this past January at Arizona. That day, the Eagles had a 44.3 rating and a 69 percent share of the audience watching television - the Phillies' rating number a tiny bit higher but with a lower share.

Farther back, there is the comparison with the Eagles' Super Bowl loss to New England following the 2004 season. For that game, the Eagles had a 56 rating and a 77 percent share of the audience watching television.

But the thing is, even as the Phillies' popularity explodes, it does not appear to have been at the expense of the Eagles. For instance, the Eagles' awful loss at Oakland on Oct. 18 gained a slightly higher rating than the Phillies' NLCS game against Los Angeles later that night (30.2 to 29.1).

Even as the Phillies grow, there appears to be plenty of room for prosperity. *