It took Joe Torre two teams and six seasons to post his first winning record as a manager. And then just to prove that futility wasn't a fluke, he was back below .500 and out of a job two seasons later.
Sparky Anderson, on the other hand, led the Cincinnati Reds to 102 wins and a berth in the World Series in his first season as a manger.
But while they took different paths, they wound up Tuesday at the same spot -- tied for fifth place on the all-time win list -- after Matt Kemp's 10th-inning single lifted Torre's Dodgers to a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
"It means you've been around a long time," said Torre, who claimed he was unaware Tuesday's win was a milestone. "But that's a pretty good neighborhood."
And it's one Torre might never have paid rent in were it not for help from Anderson. When Torre was breaking in as a manager, he said Anderson, whom he still calls a friend, was never shy about sharing advice.
"I always appreciated his unselfishness," Torre said. "Just talking to me. Young managers, they feel like they're doing the right but it's always nice for someone to sort of verify it for you. In spring training we talked quite a bit."
And along the way Anderson, the teacher, won 2,194 games, five pennants and three World Series in 27 seasons with the Reds and Detroit Tigers. Torre, the student, in his 29th year as a manger, has won 2,194 games, six league titles and four World Series championships with five clubs.
Anderson, who retired 14 years ago, is in the Hall of Fame. Torre, who plans to retire after next season, is on his way.
It's unlikely Torre will move any further up the list because the two men directly in front of him -- Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa -- are both active and more than a full season's worth of victories ahead of him.
That the game would dissolve into a bullpen battle in which neither side distinguished itself also seemed unlikely in the early going, when the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and Oakland's Dallas Braden hooked up in a splendid pitchers' duel. Braden had a perfect game until Kemp broke it up with a two-out, fifth-inning double and Kershaw went 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
Then Oakland erased a 2-0 Dodgers lead by scoring four times off reliever Ramon Troncoso in the eighth inning.
That deficit lasted just two outs, though, with the Dodgers, who have come from behind to win 18 times this season -- a major league-best 13 times in their final at-bat -- tying the score in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Casey Blake and a run-scoring fielder's choice from Andre Ethier.
They won it two innings later with a rally that was nearly undone by a controversial call. After Orlando Hudson led off with a single and Blake reached on an error, James Loney hit a bouncer up the middle for a force at second, with Loney avoiding a double play only after umpire Adrian Johnson ruled he had avoided the tag at first.
After an protest from the Oakland dugout, the rest of the four-man crew overruled Johnson and called Loney out. Two pitches later Kemp made all that moot, lining a fastball into right field for his third hit of the night, scoring Hudson.
"We're a good team," said Kemp, who kept the eighth-inning rally alive by breaking up a double play with a hard slide at second. "We're capable of doing some things and it's showing."
"The one thing about this club is they get frustrated but they don't quit. They have really dug in here," he said. "And we constantly remind them -- don't look at the standings. Just continue to add to your record."
And as long as they do that, Torre will add to his as well.
Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this story.