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Freeway Series? A TV no-no

Ron Cervenka is a 55-year-old Burbank police detective who went to Game 3 of the 1963 World Series, when the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the New York Yankees.

And if the Dodgers were to play the Los Angeles Angels in a 2009 World Series, he is pretty sure he could get tickets to Angel Stadium -- except he’d rather not.

Cervenka wants the Dodgers to play the Yankees again. He’s not alone. Thoughts of a Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers may make hearts sing in Anaheim and Brea and Huntington Beach and Tustin, but with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, advertisers, marketing experts and television executives love New York.

So do Dodgers fans.

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“We’re talking tradition and a rivalry that’s gone on forever,” Cervenka said.

Of course, the Dodgers have to beat the Phillies in the National League Championship Series and are now down two games to one after losing 11-0 Sunday night. And the Angels find themselves down two games to none after Saturday night’s 13-inning loss to the Yankees in the American League series. Today they try to grab back the momentum in Game 3 at Angel Stadium.

Yet none of this has stopped people in Southern California from thinking ahead.

Even Angels fans.

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“It’s not looking good, I can’t lie about that,” said Terry Robertson, 56, of Huntington Beach, who has been an Angels fan since age 11 and would love to see a Freeway Series.

What does Major League Baseball think?

Chris Russo, host of a national sports talk show on Sirius XM satellite radio and former co-host of the popular New York-based “Mike and the Mad Dog” show, said he knows what the commissioner is thinking.

“He wouldn’t say this, of course,” Russo said, “but if you gave Bud Selig a shot of truth serum right now, all he’d say is ‘Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Dodgers’ until the serum wore off.”

The Dodgers and Yankees have met 11 times in the World Series, the first time in 1941 and the last time in 1981. The Yankees lead them in titles 8-3. The Angels and Dodgers? This would be the first.

Robertson figures Dodgers fans want the Yankees. “That’s the classic matchup,” he said. “I still remember that 1963 series, and I know everybody wants to see that back.”

Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports, whose network is televising the World Series, was matter-of-fact in saying that all things being equal, things aren’t quite equal.

“No question, the story lines in a Dodgers-Yankees series, Joe Torre going back to the Bronx, the Dodgers’ history in New York, it would be a media event beyond just a World Series,” Goren said. “That kind of buzz translates into ratings; ratings tend to build. A long-running Dodgers-Yankees World Series would probably be our highest-rated yet.”

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Greg Mascio, 40, of Brea is another longtime Angels fan who is not surprised everyone wants a Yankees-Dodgers series -- though he would love the Angels to play the Dodgers.

“Believe me,” Mascio said, “I get it. The history, and that it would mean more for the Dodgers if they beat the Yankees and would hurt less if they lost to the Yankees.

“If I were the Fox guys, I would be rooting for the Yankees-Dodgers numbers. I don’t blame them. We’re just happy to be part of the conversation.”

Fox would prefer a seven-game battle between any teams to a Yankees-vs.-Dodgers four-game sweep. It’s the money. While neither MLB nor the network releases figures, industry sources who were not authorized to speak publicly said one World Series game can be worth up to $130 million to the network.

Although advertising time for the first five World Series games is traditionally sold out, potential Games 6 and 7 will have time available. And that time is worth more if it’s Dodgers and Yankees.

Fox has televised 11 of the last 13 World Series. The one that captured the most viewers for Fox was the 2004 series between Boston and St. Louis, which averaged 25.3 million viewers per game. The 2000 Subway Series between the Yankees and New York Mets averaged only 18 million per game. Regional matchups simply don’t translate into huge ratings.

“From the marketing side, a Freeway Series would be a major-league loser,” said Mike Durnerin of LA Web Reps, who has represented KCBS-TV Channel 2 and KCAL-TV Channel 9 in getting sports sponsors. “What ratings? Let’s nail the No. 2 market twice? No one north of Oxnard or east of Las Vegas would care.”

In talking with Joe Goode, an executive with World Series advertiser Bank of America, it became clear what the Angels are up against.

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The bank is the official bank of Major League Baseball, the Dodgers and Yankees but not the Angels, Goode said. And a Dodgers-Yankees series is the ideal.

“For an advertiser, it delivers significantly greater value -- in terms of TV ratings [and] fan engagement,” he said.

C. Patrick O’Brien, chief executive of L.A.-based O’Brien Sports Marketing Group, said it’s all about marquee value. “A Yankees-Dodgers series would transcend sports,” he said. “Let’s just face it: The Angels are still a secondary team.”

There is a reason Angels owner Arte Moreno, from the witness stand in 2006, said what he did when he successfully fought to change his team’s name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. “It doesn’t say, the Bronx or the Queens vs. Anaheim,” Moreno told the court, referring to the way a box score reads. “It says, New York vs. Los Angeles.”

Said Durnerin: “Why did Arte Moreno go to all that trouble adding ‘Los Angeles’ to the name of this team? With the Yankees and Dodgers, we’re talking about towering ratings with ad revenues to match -- and all on a national scale. If you’re a major sponsorship-level advertiser, how do you not jump on that with your checkbook on fire?”

It’s not only about the checkbook, though. There is that sepia-tinged feeling of connection with World Series past.

Dave Stuart, an L.A. judge and lifelong Dodgers fan, echoed what several other supporters said.

“It would be much more special to beat the Yankees than the Angels,” Stuart said. “Maybe the Angels have a chip on their shoulders about the Dodgers, but I don’t think Dodger fans care about the Angels one way or the other. But it would be absolutely special for the Dodgers to beat the Yankees in a World Series.”

Victor Bulaich, 71, of Inglewood is an old-fashioned kind of fan who doesn’t get cable television and who isn’t thrilled he can’t watch the Dodgers-Phillies series on TBS. But he still knows what would make the best World Series.

“For tradition and for everything else, ratings and publicity and all those things, if it’s the Dodgers-Angels, the East just wouldn’t be interested in a Freeway Series,” Bulaich said. “I would like to see it be the Dodgers-Yankees. Even the Phillies-Yankees would be OK. For the good of the game, though, Dodgers-Yankees, that would be the best.”

Even TBS baseball analyst Dennis Eckersley, who pitched for the Oakland A’s when they played the San Francisco Giants in the 1989 World Series, knows a Dodgers-Yankees World Series would be more compelling, even for casual sports fans.

“Nobody cared about it except us,” he said of the ’89 series. “It was definitely a niche thing. It definitely wouldn’t be a niche if it was the Dodgers-Yankees.”

For Angels fan Mascio, seeing his team play in -- and win -- the World Series is priceless. In 2002 he paid a scalper $3,000 for tickets to Game 7 and took his father, Frank, who had never been to a baseball game.

Mascio said watching the Angels lose Game 2 to the Yankees on Saturday “was pretty demoralizing.”

“Now it’s all on [Jered] Weaver,” he said, referring to today’s Game 3 starting pitcher for the Angels.

With the Angels’ situation dire, might Mascio root for the Dodgers to beat the Phillies?

“Of course not,” said Mascio, who is also devoted to USC football. “It’s like the USC-UCLA thing. I’ll be rooting for the Phillies.”

John Fischer, 62, a songwriter from Laguna Beach, hasn’t given up on his Angels meeting the Dodgers in a Freeway Series. “There is always hope,” he said.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com


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