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.
Mattingly not fixated on .500 mark
LOS ANGELES -- In the past couple weeks, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has pointed out what a remarkable accomplishment it would be for his club to finish at .500.
That doesn't mean it's what he's playing for.
Mattingly, whose team sat 14 games below the mark on July 7, said Thursday that the most important part of the season's final week will be building younger players -- not achieving a specific win total.
"Do you sacrifice the chance to build and see a few more guys to get a better record or play .500, which sounds better, but in the end it doesn't really do anything for you?" Mattingly said. "In the end there's going to be X amount of teams that are going to be in the playoffs, and you're not going to be one of them."
The Dodgers play San Diego this weekend in a series Mattingly said he will use to give some of his September callups playing time.
When they head to Arizona to finish the season, Mattingly said he'll likely employ a different philosophy with the D-backs currently jockeying for playoff position.
"Arizona, if it has implications, we'll probably play our lineup and still mix in a kid if you want to," he said.
Gordon laying claim to Dodgers' shortstop job
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly didn't quite annoint Dee Gordon his starting shortstop in 2012.
But the Dodgers manager sure came close.
Gordon, the Dodgers' highly touted rookie, has been on a tear this month, hitting .373 and sporting an eight-game hitting streak heading into Thursday's game against San Francisco.
"He's played himself into basically being the shortstop," Mattingly said. "Anything can happen over the winter -- you break a leg or something, it changes things. At this point, I'd have to say that Dee's looked really good. He's probably a part of that mix. I don't know if I can quite say right now, but I look at it like he's the shortstop."
Gordon is hitting .294 this season, with 23 steals in 49 games. With speed as the biggest part of Gordon's game, Mattingly said over the course of a full season, Gordon's stolen-base number should be in the 60s.
But Gordon said he isn't looking at himself as the 2012 shortstop heading into the offseason. He'll go about his normal routine as if he were fighting for a spot.
"You've got to keep playing, man, you never know," Gordon said. "I'm just going to keep playing hard, and we'll see what happens out of Spring Training."
Little League champs visit Dodger Stadium
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers welcomed the Ocean View Little League team to Dodger Stadium on Thursday, a month after the Huntington Beach squad won the Little League World Series title in thrilling fashion.
The Little Leaguers watched batting practice from the field and took infield practice on the Dodger Stadium infield.
They remained on the field, posing for pictures and getting autographs, until the national anthem, when they stood next to the players.
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.