LOS ANGELES (AP) It was Tommy Lasorda's 88th birthday, so of course he was spending it at Dodger Stadium.
''It's where I belong,'' the last Dodger manager to win a World Series said. ''And where else in the world would I rather be?''
There was no better spot on a warm night - the last of the summer - than the aisle seat next to the dugout where Lasorda used to manage. He sat there with Don Newcombe, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitching ace who laid claim to some birthdays of his own.
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''I'm older than he is,'' Newcombe said. ''He's only 88. I'm 89.''
One by one, Dodger greats from the past came by to wish Lasorda a happy birthday and trade a few barbs. Steve Garvey and Steve Yeager were among them, as was Orel Hershisher, one of Lasorda's all-time favorite pitchers.
Davey Lopes brought a bat with him, and talk soon turned to the poor record the current team has stealing bases.
''You could steal a base right now,'' Lasorda said to his old second baseman, who now coaches first base for the team.
The Dodgers will almost surely make the playoffs once again this year, something that both pleases and perplexes Lasorda. He managed the team to four World Series and won two of them, including the last one in 1988, and he still swears that if cut open he will bleed Dodger Blue.
It's been 27 years since Kirk Gibson hit the home run that lives in baseball lore, an agonizingly long drought for a team that won three World Series titles in the first nine years after moving to Los Angeles in 1958. Even a $300 million payroll and two of the best pitchers in baseball doesn't guarantee success in a postseason where the Dodgers have underperformed for years.
''I like this team very much but I always feel that way,'' Lasorda said. ''For some reason it doesn't ever seem to work.''
Up in the broadcast booth, another Dodger institution has seen the good and the bad.
Vin Scully has spent almost his entire adult life broadcasting Dodger games, and counts as his biggest thrill being able to do the final innings of Game 7 in the 1955 World Series when the Dodgers - in a year Newcombe went 20-5 - finally managed to beat the hated Yankees and take the title back to Brooklyn.
''I was able to say for the one and only time, `Ladies and gentlemen, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the world champions,'' Scully recalled while taking a break from preparing his notes for the night's game.
Scully doesn't root for the home team, and may be the furthest thing from a homer in any broadcast booth today. He recently thrilled Dodger fans by announcing he would be back at age 88 for one more season, though, and you get the feeling he'd like to see at least one more World Series run.
This could be the team that gets there, if only because Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke can take the ball back-to-back and win two games of any short series. Beyond that, though, the Dodger rotation is a mess, the bullpen has been shaky, and the hitting is so erratic that they were no-hit twice within a span of nine games in August.
They've also been in a funk of late, which worries Lasorda some.
It should because the Dodgers have been knocked out of the playoffs the last two years by St. Louis, and Kershaw - the two-time reigning Cy Young winner - has been on the losing end in his last four playoff starts against the Cardinals.
''They're two great pitchers and you can tell by the money they get every month,'' Lasorda said. ''But you can't win the World Series with two guys.''
One guy the Dodgers could use is a healthy Yasiel Puig, though the mercurial outfielder remains on the disabled list with a hamstring pull. Puig seemed in good spirits when he came by to offer Lasorda birthday greetings before the game, but offered no update on his status.
Then it was back to chatting about old times with Newcombe, who was telling the story about the time he started - and nearly finished - both games of a doubleheader.
It was Sept. 6, 1950 in Philadelphia, with the Dodgers and Phillies battling for the pennant. With his staff pretty much used up, Dodger manager Burt Shotton told Newcombe if he didn't throw many pitches in the first game he was going to start him in the second, too.
Newcombe threw a three-hit shutout in the first game and made it into the eighth inning of the second before being pulled for a pinch hitter. His pitching line read: 16 IP, H 11, ER 2, BB 2, SO 3.
Unfortunately for this year's team, Newcombe won't be available for the playoffs.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg