It was shocking to hear that Tom Browning passed away.
First, because he was only 62 years old. Second, because he was a unique and memorable pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.
Every Reds fan I know thought of him as Mr. Perfect, since he fired the 12th perfect game in baseball history against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988.
I remember that night – what Red fan from back then doesn’t? I had been out with some firefighter buddies and was on my way home and listening to 700 WLW and Marty Brennaman (of course) in my truck when Marty made the call for the final out. The game had been delayed by rain and it was around 11:30 or so at night (Central time).
Browning got that last out and I laid on my horn a few times. No one around here cared or knew why, but I did.
Tom Browning was always a favorite pitcher of mine. A lefty, he worked fast and threw strikes. He usually kept the Reds in games he started. He wasn’t a flame thrower, more of an artist. I was glad to see him pitch in the 1990 World Series and I plan on re-watching that tomorrow night.
In years past, the Reds ran a promotion of joining him in a club box at Great American Ball Park on Sunday afternoon games. I’m not sure if they did last year or not. I had “other places to go” despite what was said about us collective Reds fans on Opening Day last year. I almost pulled the trigger two years ago but was unable to make that trip.
I believe Browning ran a restaurant/bar in either Covington or Newport. I never made it there but if you’re reading this and met Mr. Perfect there, please feel free to comment.
And, as most of you know, he was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2006, along with Tom Seaver and Lee May. What a class that was. And, unfortunately, all three of them are now gone.
Seaver just missed a perfect game, thanks to Jimmy Qualls, who hit a one-out single in the 9th inning of a Mets win over the Cubs in 1969. I met Qualls a few years ago at our camp on the Mississippi River and we had a couple of cold ones and he talked about that game. “I was looking for the hard stuff,” said Qualls.
Tom Browning got his on a rainy night at Riverfront Stadium. He was a 20-game winner. He won 123 games in his career. He was a workhorse. He was reliable, out there every fifth day.
And he’s in our Hall of Fame – the Cincinnati Reds.