We examine Mr. Perfect's career as a red, and why he's still well-known for a game 25 years old.
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Most pitchers from the Reds
teams in the 1980's came and gone, and only die-hard fans remember them to this day. Ron Robinson? Jack Armstrong? Even Danny Jackson is a name that many people here have trouble coming up with. Outside of Mario Soto, the Reds have really never been known to produce elite pitching for a long time. Of the players to pitch for the Reds from Seaver until... well, Cueto, the vast majority of them have made for a long list of mediocre pitchers.
Despite a mostly average career, you know who isn't on that list? Tom Browning. And the difference is that he threw the only perfect game in Reds history.
Tom Browning was a longtime workhorse starting pitcher for the Reds. After coming up in the 1984 season, Browning pitched for the Reds for a staggering 11 years, amassing almost 300 starts for the team in that span. He was a Red through and through, only pitching one season outside of Cincinnati, where he stunk in Kansas City for 2 games in 1995.
Between 1985 and 1991, Browning only had 1 season where he didn't pitch over 220 innings. He led the league in starts for 4 seasons as well.
Even though he was durable, Browning was about the textbook definition of average. He was good for an ERA around 4.00 every year, and an ERA+ around 100 (if not slightly better). He did all of this as a finesse pitcher, striking out only around 5 hitters per 9 innings on average.
What separates him from all of the other scrubs that pitched for the Reds in the 80's? September 16, 1988. He outdueled Tim Belcher over 9 innings, not giving up one single hit or walking anybody en route to a 1-0 win over the Dodgers
. It was a Dodger team that won the World Series that year, including names like Mickey Hatcher and Kirk Gibson in the lineup. Definitely not an easy game to navigate, but it only took Browning 101 pitches. Those 101 pitches are the difference between Jack Armstrong and Mr. Perfect.
At the end of the day, wasn't Browning just a durable finesse pitcher who didn't strike out a lot of guys who was prone to giving up the long ball? (Browning led the league in gopher-balls for 3 seasons) Sound like anybody you know?
is a really interesting parallel here, and it got me thinking about what his legacy in Cincinnati will be when it's all said and done. This is likely his last season as a Red, he's made it pretty clear. He'll (likely) leave here with 8 full years as a stalwart in the rotation, as rock solid a pitcher the Reds have had in a decade. He's not flashy, he doesn't overpower you, but he gets results, a lot like Browning did. 25 years from now, will people remember Bronson the same way they do Browning?