OAKLAND, OCT. 19 -- When tens of millions of Americans who didn't know you the day before are suddenly rooting like crazy for you to beat the world champions of baseball, it's tough to stay cooped up in your hotel room.
So Tom Browning took the subway to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this afternoon, long before the first Cincinnati Reds team bus arrived.
"I wanted to get to the park the quickest way. I didn't want to wait for a bus or get stuck in traffic. I wanted to get in a baseball atmosphere," said Browning.
That's understandable. For the last couple of days he's mostly been in an atmosphere of borderline pandemonium.
Browning found the pitcher's mound less crazy than what the rest of his world has been for the last three days. He worked six typical Browning innings tonight -- gutty, home run plagued and victorious. Sure, he allowed six hits and three runs, on homers by Harold Baines and Rickey Henderson. But no one will care.
Tom Browning will always go down in World Series lore as the left-hander who went AWOL against his manager's orders in the middle of Game 2 when his wife went into labor at the ballpark, then came back to win Game 3, 8-3, to virtually ice the world title for his Reds.
On Wednesday night, Debbie Browning went into labor while watching the Reds play the Oakland A's. About an hour later, Browning watched as their third child was delivered by C-section -- although doctors at one point had to remind him to take off his Reds cap in the delivery room.
"People were looking at me like I was some kind of demented Reds fan," he said.
With 6-pound 10-ounce Tucker Thomas Browning safely in the world, the father began to think about other things. Like whether Manager Lou Piniella would shoot him on sight. With Game 2 headed toward extra innings, Piniella passed word for Browning not to leave the park. At one point, the Reds radio network put out an all-points-bulletin for Browning to get his left arm back to Riverfront, pronto.
But the baby came and the game ended, both around midnight -- and all was well. Except the little problem of beating the A's.
"It's been hectic," said Browning with a laugh. "I got to bed at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday then had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to take my daughter to school. But I got a pretty good night's sleep last night. I was always told you sleep in November. I guess I was going mostly on adrenaline, but I felt very good out there. . . . I didn't pitch very well at first. I was a little wild, erratic. It's hard to keep composure. But I battled and found a groove."
You could say that Browning delivered a six-inning win tonight. Father and victory are doing very well.
Browning, once a 20-game winner and always a dependable workhouse who went 15-9 this year, can be proud of how he handled this evening's work. The home runs didn't shake him. "They better not," he said. "When you give them up as often as I do, you better learn to roll with the punches."
Piniella forgave Browning for his absence long before this game. "Aw, in his position, I'd probably have done the same thing," he said.
If ever a manager made a sentimental decision, it was Piniella with two out and two on in the A's fifth inning, an 8-3 lead and Jose Canseco at bat. Every form of sound startegy said to yank Browning one out shy of a chance for a victory. Why let Canseco hit a three-run homer, wake up the crowd, make the score 8-6 and, perhaps, transform the entire World Series with one swing?
Piniella went to the mound and said, "You're throwing good. You have a lead. Catch your breath and then go get him."
"These two nights are in two totally different categories," said Browning. "But they are both two unbelieveably great thrills."