First Santa, then Browning goes ‘Up On The Rooftop’

Published 11:20 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

Jim Walker

“That right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a paradise that’s trouble proof
And if this old world starts a getting you down
There’s room enough for two, up on the roof.”
James Taylor sang it. Tom Browning lived it.
Browning remembers it like it was yesterday, but it actually was 25 years ago.
The former Cincinnati Reds’ left-handed pitcher — who was voted into the franchise Hall of Fame in 2006 — spoke at a Reds’ Hall of Fame and Museum membership event last November at Frische’s Big Boy in Ironton.
One of the topics Browning touched on was his famous “Rooftop Visit” on July 7, 1993, when the Reds were playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Reds’ Hall of Fame and Museum put together a travel package offering fans a chance to revisit Browning’s iconic rooftop visit.
An event sponsored by Dinsmore featured Browning himself hanging out on the rooftop.
Browning — who threw the only perfect game in Reds’ history on Sept. 16, 1988, against the Los Angeles Dodgers — was supposed to be in the dugout during the Cubs’ game but as a starting pitcher there was virtually no need of his services, at least not early in the game.
Browning got the idea to climb up into the scoreboard but was denied access. That caused a change in plans and he wound up across the street on one of the building rooftops and — in full uniform — sat with Cubs’ fans watching the game.
Browning asked visiting clubhouse manager Tom Hellman who owned the building across the street. Hellman said George Loukas.
With his eyes popping wide, Browning asked, “THE George Lucas?” Hellman said no to the idea it was the famous movie director, but gave Browning the owner’s phone number and he made the call asking if he could sit up on the rooftop for just a half-inning. Loukas was happy to accommodate Browning and met him in front of Murphy’s Pub.
When Browning left the dugout, he told his teammates to watch for him. He wore a black sweat suit with red turf shoes and his Reds’ hat. A security guard helped him leave the stadium and Browning said to wait because he was coming back soon.
After taking off his sweat suit, Browning waved his hat and his teammates waved back. He sat in his perch for one-half inning before returning to the dugout with his teammates laughing, which was his goal due to the situation that was facing the team.
“It was the year Tony (Perez) got fired (as manager) and we were 25 guys going in 25 different directions. I did it for levity, to give us something to laugh at,” said Browning.
“After the game, I totally forgot it and a reporter said can you tell me about your rooftop and, before I could answer that, (manager) Davey Johnson said I need to see you in the principal’s office,” said Browning.
“To be honest, that was the (general manager) Jim Bowden era and I was not a Jim Bowden fan. We didn’t get along at all. We didn’t even talk. I called him Boy Wonder and he hated that. I didn’t care because he was younger than I was.
“So, Davey was kind of giving the Bowden side — insubordination, release me, suspend me — all I did was leave the stadium in my uniform. He wanted to make a big deal out of it. He started chastising me and I said, ‘Stop.’ I said a few choice words. I said this has nothing to do with you. We’ve been 25 guys going in 25 different directions since Tony got fired. We really liked playing for Tony. I said I deserve a fine. Tell me what it is and I’ll pay it.”
Browning was fined $500 — the maximum allowed by the union agreement — but he wanted the check made out to the charity of Johnson’s girlfriend. Owner Marge Schott found out and wasn’t happy because Johnson wasn’t married and was living with his girlfriend.
Two weeks later the Reds were playing the Florida Marlins and new owner Wayne Wuizenga asked Browning to sit in the right field restaurant at their stadium.
“I said ‘No, tell him thank you. But I’ve caught enough hell for doing it one time.’ But it was a career highlight.”
Browning, 58, pitched for the Reds from 1984-94 and with the Kansas City Royals in 1995. He was 123-90 during his career with a 3.94 earned run average and 1,000 strikeouts.
Browning was 20-9 in 1984 as he became the first rookie 20-game winner since the New York Yankees’ Bob Grim in 1954. He won his final 11 games and was The Sporting News’ National League Rookie of the Year.
Browning was second to St. Louis’ Vince Coleman in the Associated Press voting for Rookie of the Year.
He was an All-Star in 1991and picked up a win in Game 3 of the 1990 World Series when the Reds swept the Oakland A’s.
“That 1990 season was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable season of baseball I have ever been a part of,” said Browning who had seven straight seasons of double-digit wins and was among the leaders in starts, innings pitcher and shutouts.

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