Lasorda back in dugout for 84th birthday

Lasorda back in dugout for 84th birthday

Lasorda back in dugout for 84th birthday
LOS ANGELES -- Sporting a Dodgers cap and his retired No. 2 jersey, Tommy Lasorda sat on the bench in the Dodgers dugout just hours before Thursday's game, cracking jokes and commenting on batting practice.

In Dodger Stadium, which the former Dodgers manager dubbed "blue heaven on earth," all seemed right.

On his 84th birthday Thursday, Lasorda will serve as an honorary coach for the Dodgers' final home game.

Current manager Don Mattingly made the invitation to Lasorda, whose Dodgers managerial career began 35 years ago when he replaced Walt Alston and lasted 20 seasons. He won two World Series titles and 1,599 games.

"I got 1,599 wins, a win today is 1,600," Lasorda kidded. "It's very, very important to me."

Lasorda said upon the news he'd be on the bench, he got calls from friends and family from all around the country. The Dodgers players broke into a chorus of "Happy Birthday" after Lasorda had finished his pregame meal.

Mattingly kidded that he got to the park early before the game to make sure Lasorda wouldn't try to usurp him as manager.

"I got [the lineup] done before he got here and went out and posted it so he couldn't change it," Mattingly said. "He wanted [Clayton] Kershaw to go again today."

Lasorda said he had a conversation with Giants manager Bruce Bochy before the game, where Bochy joked he hoped Lasorda would manage.

"Bochy said, 'Let him manage; I'll outsmart him,'" Lasorda said. "Tell Bochy I'm in the Hall of Fame."

But Lasorda put his quips aside for most of his pregame interviews to say just how thankful he is to the Dodgers organization and to Mattingly for the opportunity to be back in the third-base dugout at Chavez Ravine.

"I never dreamed it would happen, and it happened," Lasorda said. "I'm so grateful.