Advertisement

Browning Has New Delivery : Reds: Pitcher leaves to accompany wife to hospital, and club puts out an all-points bulletin for him.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was Wednesday night in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Tom Browning was on the edge of his seat.

Cincinnati had just tied the Oakland Athletics in Game 2 of the World Series. Browning was anticipating a second Reds victory, looking forward to his Game 3 start, thinking about . . . tap, tap, tap .

A clubhouse attendant shattered his concentration, poking a finger into his shoulder. The attendant had a message from Browning’s pregnant wife, Debbie.

She was sitting in the waiting room outside the clubhouse. She wanted to see him. Now.

Advertisement

“You should have seen the look on his face,” teammate Rick Mahler said. “His eyes were like . . . oh no .”

And so began one of the strangest, sweetest odysseys in recent Series history.

There was panic as Browning rushed out of the clubhouse to accompany Debbie to a local hospital.

There was joy as Browning, wearing a gown over his Red uniform, watched the birth of his son just 30 minutes after he watched--on television--as the Reds defeated the A’s in 10 innings.

Advertisement

But more than anything there was total confusion, as neither Manager Lou Piniella nor pitching coach Stan Williams knew where Browning was.

It wouldn’t have mattered, except that after the game went into extra innings the Reds had only two pitchers remaining. Browning, scheduled to start today in Game 3, might have been needed two days early in relief.

“In the eighth inning, Lou told me to warn Browning to start thinking about pitching,” Williams said. “I didn’t see him in the dugout, so I sent somebody up to the clubhouse to find him. The word came back that he was gone.

“I said, ‘He’s what? ' I didn’t know where he could be. I was shocked.”

Advertisement

Williams reacted mildly compared to Piniella, who was seen on television yelling at Williams.

“Lou said, ‘What in the hell is going on?’ ” Williams said. “I said, ‘Don’t ask me.’ I had never seen a pitcher walk out of a World Series game before.”

Soon after Browning’s departure they realized he had accompanied his wife to the hospital. They didn’t know which hospital, but they wanted him to come back and be available to pitch.

“We had a kid phone every hospital in the area, but none of them would give out the information,” Williams said. “All we knew was that he was with his wife and was doing whatever women do when they’re getting ready to have babies.”

Advertisement

Their worry soon spread to the Reds’ radio broadcast booth, where announcers pleaded on the air for Browning, wherever he was, to return to the park.

“We weren’t quite panicked yet, it was only the 10th inning,” Williams said. “But you wouldn’t think you would have to put out a national signal to find a pitcher.”

Of course, by the time the Reds arrived in Oakland Thursday afternoon, Piniella and Williams understood what had happened. Browning had a two-day growth of beard and red eyes to prove it.

“Now that we know, I told him, I understand everything he was going through,” Williams said. “But I told him, next time, please do mention it to somebody.”

Advertisement

It is a story that Browning will be talking about for years.

“I’m just glad I remembered to take pictures,” he said wearily.

His night began at 4 p.m., when Debbie began having labor pains. She wasn’t due to give birth to their third child for another week, so she thought it was false labor.

Against her doctor’s wishes, she attended the game, timing her contractions from behind home plate. The contractions grew stronger as the game dragged on, and finally she knew it was real.

Advertisement

She rushed to her car to drive herself to the hospital, but the car was blocked by a team van. This is when she banged on the clubhouse door and asked for her husband.

“All she wanted me to do was get somebody to move the van so she could move her car,” Browning said. “She didn’t want me to leave the game.

“But I panicked. I wasn’t going to let her go alone.

“The assistant trainer and one of the clubhouse guys and, I think, Ron Oester knew because he was there when they told me she was looking for me. But I didn’t really come out and actually tell anybody where I was going.

Advertisement

“I just got to the point where I saw her at the car and I kind of panicked and said, ‘Let’s go.’ ”

Soon, in full uniform, he was helping her into the emergency room of St. Elizabeth South Hospital in Crestview Hills, Ky. He had not even bothered to remove his baseball cap.

“I’m sure some of those people thought I was just a big Reds fan,” Browning said. “I heard a lot of whispers.”

Browning sat with his wife in a labor room and turned on the television. It was then that he heard a CBS announcer relay the message given over the radio.

Advertisement

“It was then I realized that nobody knew where I was,” Browning said. “But when you are about to become a father, you don’t think about that.

“I stood there listening to that and I started sweating and pacing, thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do here?’ I was at the hospital. She was getting prepped, ready to get a C-section done. I wasn’t going to leave, but I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to stay there, and another part of me wanted to go back to the ballpark.

“I was between a rock and a hard spot. I knew we were running low on pitchers. Yet I felt kind of helpless in that situation because I wanted to make sure that everything was OK with my wife and my child. Luckily Joe (Oliver) hit the double down the line and took care of all my problems.”

Moments after the game ended, he was being fitted for a gown over his jersey and taken into the operating room, where the baby would be born by Caesarean section.

Advertisement

It was only then that Browning, who had missed the birth of his first child because of baseball, thankfully realized that he wasn’t going to miss this time.

At 12:27 p.m., Tucker Thomas Browning--6 pounds, 11 ounces--was born.

Today, Browning will have more than emotion on his side. He’ll also have history. The last pitcher to start a World Series game the day after the birth of a child was Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen in 1985. All he did was throw a five-hit shutout against St. Louis in Game 7 to give the Royals the title.

“Baseball can be a luxurious life,” Browning said. “But it is definitely not a normal life.

Advertisement

“Y’know, a baby born this morning and I had to leave. That was tough. At least I know he’s healthy and OK. It was a great night. We got a win and I got my third child.”


Advertisement