The family of the late Mickey Mantle expressed its anger yesterday at a decision to temporarily rename the Yankees slugger's eponymous restaurant -- and even worse, to call the place "Ted Williams," after the Red Sox great -- following Boston's victory over the Bronx Bombers.

The awning at the restaurant on Central Park South carried a makeshift paper sign reading "Ted Williams," covering the familiar "Mickey Mantle" lettering. The decision was made by the restaurant's owner, Bill Liederman, who was paying homage to the Bostonians.

"Mickey loved Ted, and we hold Ted's memory in the highest regard," said Mantle's widow, Merlyn. "But Mr. Liederman's conduct is disgraceful and an insult to Mickey's memory, and to the Yankees and their fans."

Mantle and Liederman opened the restaurant in 1988, becoming close friends until the Yankee great's death in 1995. A man at the restaurant said yesterday Liederman could not immediately comment about the flap.

TV Ratings Down

Fox's big-city ratings for Thursday night's Game 7 of the National League Championship Series were 27 percent lower than for last year's decisive NLCS game.

The St. Louis Cardinals' 5-2 win over the Houston Astros drew 14.5 percent of viewers in the 56 largest markets, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc. Last season, when the Chicago Cubs were trying to reach their first World Series since 1945, the Florida Marlins' Game 7 victory got a 19.8 large-market rating.

Red Sox Favored

The Red Sox opened as 8-5 favorites yesterday at Bally's and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

"If the Red Sox were a team that had won a couple of times in the last few years, this line would be more of a pick 'em," said John Avello, race and sports book director at Bally's. "But a lot of people want to believe this is the year."

Charges Dropped

Prosecutors dropped charges yesterday against a Fenway Park groundskeeper who got into a bullpen brawl with two former Yankees during last year's playoffs.

The players, Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia, are scheduled to go to trial next week.

Suffolk (Mass.) District Attorney Daniel Conley filed court documents ending the prosecution of Paul Williams after a review found there wasn't enough evidence to back up a charge. Prosecutors said they viewed videotape of the fight and interviewed witnesses.

Williams, 25, of Derry, N.H., had been charged in a cross-complaint initiated by former Yankees pitcher Nelson. Nelson alleged that Williams bumped him and spit on him in a brawl in the Yankees' bullpen during last year's ALCS.