Looking back: Tom Browning reaches new heights at Wrigley Field

Twenty five years ago today, Mr. Perfect earned a $500 fine for watching the game from a rooftop

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Twenty five years ago today, a Cincinnati Reds pitcher who already had reached the pinnacle of his profession by throwing a perfect game in 1988 and winning a World Series in 1990 found new heights (literally) in Chicago.

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Tom Browning provided one of the most unusual moments in Reds history by visiting the rooftop of a building overlooking Wrigley Field during a game against the Cubs, whose manager Jim Lefebvre said at the time, "The way we're going, if one of our players had done it, he would have fallen off.”

Browning didn’t get injured or stay on the roof for long, though Reds manager Davey Johnson fined Browning $500 for the stunt.

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It was money well spent for Browning, who has told the story of his bleacher journey for decades. On Saturday, with the Reds playing at Wrigley Field, he revisited the rooftop for an interview on Fox Sports Ohio.

Here’s a look back at Browning’s rooftop visit. This is Hall of Fame baseball writer’s Hal McCoy’s story from the July 8, 1993, edition of the Dayton Daily News:

Reds edge Cubs

Tom Browning put a new twist to Fiddler on the Roof Wednesday afternoon outside Wrigley Field ... Pitcher on the Roof.

There the Cincinnati Reds were, locked in a tense game with the Chicago Cubs, and suddenly Browning appeared, in his Reds' uniform, on the roof of a three-story brick apartment building across Sheffield Avenue that overlooks Wrigley above the right-field bleachers.

Browning sat on a railing, feet dangling toward the street, waving to his friends in the Reds' bullpen and dugout.

"What a great view ... that's what baseball is all about," Browning said after the deed and after the Reds survived the Cubs, 4-3, to scramble back to .500.

But while Browning sat on the roof among Cub fans who, during games, always occupy the roofs of nine apartment buildings overlooking Wrigley, Manager Davey Johnson hit the roof.
Johnson summoned Browning to his office and fined him $500 for leaving the scene of a game.
"Maybe they are all snapping on me," Johnson said. "Jose Rijo has his water gun in the dugout and Browning wants to be a fan. I'd hate to see what it would be like in the middle of a pennant race in August."

Browning hatched his plan during Tuesday's game when Gary Varsho told him about Pittsburgh's Bob Walk sneaking into the WrigleyField scoreboard and peering at everybody through one of the holes where numbers are hung.

That's what Browning wanted to do, but the Cubs said no. So the visiting clubhouse attendants arranged for Browning to meet an apartment owner.

Before the third inning, Browning sneaked into the clubhouse and put a warmup suit over his baseball uniform and met the apartment-dweller outside the stadium before the third inning.

"The people were great," he said. "They offered me beer and hot dogs, but I told 'em I couldn't take any. They left me alone after that so I could enjoy the game. Some people didn't believe I was a player until I took the warmup off. A fine? I don't care. I've been reprimanded before. I had fun today. I thought it would be real cool up there - it was - and it was a nice idea to give the guys a laugh. I'm sure Johnson knew I was up there. I don't care about that, either."

As it so happened, the third inning was when the game was decided.

Starter Tim Pugh gave up three runs in the first on home runs by Ryne Sandberg and Sammy Sosa. Kevin Mitchell homered in the second, then cracked another home run in the third, a two-run blast to the center-field bleachers that made it 4-3.

Sitting on the railing of the apartment, Browning cheered wildly.

"After I hit the home run, I saw this guy in a Cincinnati uniform across the street waving at me," Mitchell said. "I thought it was just somebody dressed up. When I got to the dugout, I saw on the TV camera that it was Browning.

"I'm glad I didn't see him before I batted because I was laughing so hard I couldn't have hit," Mitchell said. "I thought it was great. It loosens everybody up."

Pitcher Tim Belcher, in on the gag, sat in the dugout to alert the WGN-TV cameraman when Browning appeared on the roof. When told Johnson wasn't pleased, Belcher laughed and said, "A little levity never hurt anybody. We're not accountants, we're not a bunch of stuffed shirts. He didn't disrupt the game. If I was the manager I might think differently; but as a teammate, I thought it was damned hilarious."

Browning returned to the park after the third inning, to triumphant high-fives and in time to watch Pugh win his second straight game after six straight defeats. After giving up three runs in the first, Pugh gave up no runs and three hits into the seventh.

He struck out Willie Wilson and Jose Vizcaino to open the eighth, but Sandberg singled. Johnson replaced Pugh with Jeff Reardon, who first gave up a single to Derrick May before striking out Sosa.

And it was Rob Dibble time in the ninth. He loaded the bases (single, two walks) with two outs before engaging in a spell-binding 10-pitch confrontation with Vizcaino. On 2-and-2, Vizcaino fouled off five straight, then Dibble got him swinging to end it, Dibble's 11th save. He has six saves and a victory in his last seven appearances without giving up a run (8.1 innings, 4 hits, 5 walks, 12 strikeouts.

"It might have been fun to watch, but it was no fun from my view," Dibble said.

Dibble referred to his game-ending confrontation with Vizcaino, not Browning's imitation of singer James Taylor's version of Up on the Roof.

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