Shortly after Reds lefthander Tom Browning struck out Dodger pinch hitter Tracy Woodson to nail down a 1-0 perfect game on Friday night, a representative of the Hall of Fame called up Browning and requested the hat he wore and an autographed ball from the game. "My lucky hat? Sure I'm going to give 'em my lucky hat," Browning said later with a wink. "And they aren't getting the ball, either, not the one I struck Woodson out with. They'll get one of the other ones."
Browning had reason to be protective of his souvenirs. His one hour, 51-minute masterpiece was only the third perfect game of the modern era in the National League. The other two were Phillie righthander Jim Bunning's 6-0 win over the Mets in 1964 and Dodger lefthander Sandy Koufax's 1-0 defeat of the Cubs the following year. Coincidentally, Browning wears the same number as Koufax (32) and lives in Fort Mitchell, Ky., which is part of the district that Bunning now represents in Congress.
Browning almost had a no-hitter on June 6, but it was broken up by the Padres' Tony Gwynn, who got a hit with one out in the ninth. Browning didn't realize last week he had a perfecto going until the start of the eighth inning. Until then he was caught up in a battle with Dodger starter Tim Belcher, who was in the process of producing a three-hitter. "He was pitching as well as I was, pitching a hell of a game," Browning said of Belcher. "That helped me maintain my intensity, because we were only ahead 1-0. Any mistakes might have cost us the game."
Browning's performance was nearly flawless. Of his 102 pitches, 72 were strikes and 30 were balls. He hurled first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 27 batters and didn't let any batter get more than two balls. "For once, I had total concentration," he said. "It never drifted once. I was consistently on the corners, and they were up there hacking. Every pitch was where I wanted to throw it."
Reds owner Marge Schott left the game in the sixth inning to go home and take care of her dog. But the next day she presented Browning's wife, Debbie, with a full-length mink coat. Browning was also inundated with congratulatory telegrams from all over, including one from commissioner Peter Ueberroth. There was one disappointment, however. "I haven't heard from President Reagan," he said. "Being from California, he's probably a Dodger fan."