LOS ANGELES -- Every year on Oct. 15, Tommy Lasorda is asked about his recollections of the Dodgers' most recent title. It was, after all, 25 years ago to the day that Kirk Gibson hit his legendary walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
And every year, Lasorda, the Hall of Fame manager of that 1988 squad, is more concerned with the club's next championship than its last. This time around, it seems so close, he can taste it.
"We need to be in the World Series -- we owe that to our fans," Lasorda said before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals on Tuesday night. "We have cheated our fans from a championship team for a long time. I'm talking about not five years or 10 years. I'm talking about 25 years. ... Now, we owe that to our fans."
Lasorda threw out the first pitch before Tuesday's game against St. Louis after a video tribute to the '88 club. Beforehand, he offered a warning coated in his trademarked Lasorda wit.
"I'm going to stay close to the plate -- but that's the plate I'm going to eat at tonight," he quipped.
A few minutes later, that ceremonial first pitch bounced past a sprawling Don Mattingly and to the backstop.
Call it persistence, call it stubbornness -- whatever it is, Lasorda is the epitome. That hasn't changed one bit since his final season as Dodgers manager in 1996. He demanded the ball back, and he threw a not-quite-as-ceremonial second pitch. It crossed the plate, albeit in the dirt.
Lasorda, 86, said he foresees about 14 more years of first pitches and games at Chavez Ravine, saying, "The big Dodger in the sky can take me when I reach 100. If he wants to give me another year or two, I'll take it."
Until then, there's only one place Lasorda wants to be -- that ballpark he so fondly refers to as "Blue Heaven on Earth."
"I'm not the manager, I'm not the general manager, but I'm a part of this organization for 64 years, and I will continue doing it until the day the big Dodger in the sky calls me," Lasorda said. "He's going to call me one day, and I'm going to go up and see all the ex-Dodgers up there."
There are plenty of friendships he'd like to rekindle, but one sticks out for Lasorda.
"One guy I would love to see is Don Drysdale," Lasorda said. "I roomed with him in Triple-A, I worked with him and he went on to be one of the great pitchers of our game. If I could only see him again and tell him how much I enjoyed him, how much I appreciated what he's done for me."
Surely, baseball fans in Los Angeles feel the same way about Lasorda.
And Lasorda said it's exactly those fans he'd like to hear boasting about the 2013 edition of the Dodgers in every corner of the country.
"They deserve a win," Lasorda said. "They deserve a championship. They could walk around the streets of any street in the United States, saying, 'Our Dodgers won the World Series. Our Dodgers were the world champions.'"